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So You're a Beginner To Baking?




It's probably not a very well kept secret that I'm a bit of a baked goods fanatic. Almost all my Instagram photos are cupcakes or brownies, and those photos tend to be my most commented or liked photos. I was encouraged to cook as a kid, I took Standard Grade Home Economics and also Introduction to Cake Decorating, which does help explain my confidence in a kitchen. However it wasn't until the past year that I began to take baking (and other forms of cookery) extra seriously having founded my university's Cupcake & Baking Society and also becoming vegetarian which meant most ready meals were a no-go area for me and to put an end to the myth that all veggie dishes are boring. 

So, I really haven't been baking for all that long. And not having been that long I can vouch that it easier than it sounds to get into it and that I can remember some of the best baking tips to get started on if you are not all that familiar with the world of cupcakes, brownies and macaroons. 

1. Kit Out Your Kitchen

There are obviously some baking equipment that only belongs in a professional kitchen. Put the blowtorches aside - it'll be a while before you perfect that soufflé! But even for the basic cupcake or truffle their are certain items you will definitely need.

For the easier recipes you will no doubt need:
  • sieve
  • as many bowls as you can store (you might need two going at the same time)
  • muffin tin
  • baking tray
  • cake cases
  • as many wooden/plastic spoons as you can store (I recommend plastic!)
  • measuring scales (get one that does American and British measures)
  • measuring jug
  • measuring spoons
  • measuring cups
  • electric whisk (you can a traditional one if you want - but it'll be harder)
  • cooling rack
There are plenty more types of baking equipment out there. But from my experience to get started on the basic baking recipes, above is what you'll need. Even something such as the simple rolling pin is only required if you're making a dough based recipe (which I don't recommend for beginners). 

2. Find Some Recipes

Being able to tell the difference between a good recipe and a bad one is something that takes some experience. Also I would tell you to be weary of recipes you find on the internet as anyone can put them up; to get a book deal you have to prove that you know a thing or two about a sieve and spatula. Most of the recipes I have managed to mess up have been from the internet. Let that do the talking. Two online resources I do recommend however are BBC Good Food and the other BBC food site. And as for those of you who don't own a printer (or prefer a cute book for display purposes) two books I recommend are The Cupcake and the baking section of Vegetarian Nosh for Students (a book long-term followers will know I've raved about before). 

When it comes to recommendations for what type of delicacies to create I'd recommend that if you're an absolute beginner to go with the oven-free recipes such as truffles or crispy bites (you'll find recipes out there a lot more exciting than just the rice crispy puffs from your childhood). Or if you're comfortable with an oven and a timer then try your hand at brownies, muffins or cupcakes. Brownies are easiest, though if you do burn the outside of a cupcake a good layer of icing shall cover it. Things to avoid for now: bread, macaroons, cake pops, pizza and any kind of pie. 

3. Finding Ingredients

Now that you've had a look at some recipes - and hopefully selected some - you'll have a good idea of what to go looking for when out shopping. Most baking ingredients can be found at most major supermarkets (unfortunetly little Tesco Metro's might not having everything you're looking for). Depending on what recipes you're looking at you'll know what to look for when it comes to flavouring however there are some ingredients that are basic for most recipes, and I recommend having two boxes at a time. 

My basic baking cupboard consists of:
  • Plain flour (N.B. flour should always be high quality - cheap flour is obviously cheap)
  • Self-raising flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
  • Caster Sugar
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Golden Caster Sugar/Muscovado sugar (more appropriate for brownies)
  • Icing sugar (and plenty of it! One batch of cupcakes can use half a box)
  • Cocoa powder
  • A range of spices and herbs (make sure you have cinnamon)
  • Flavourings (make sure you have vanilla essence)  
  • Every liquid food colouring available from the supermarket
  • My decorating drawer
  • Egg replacer (as I'm currently experimenting with vegan baking)
And within the fridge you'll find my milk, butter (both soya), eggs, single and double cream. What you'll need could differ but this should cover many different basic recipes. 

4. Get On With It!

Now that you've kitted out your kitchen, chosen some recipes and bought your ingredients it's time to get on with the baking part. 

Here are some general guidelines
  • Measure exactly - even experienced bakers cannot afford to guestimate
  • Sieve your flour, coca powder and other other powders even if the recipe doesn't say so
  • Crack open and beat the eggs in a separate bowl - unless you want eggshells in your cakes?
  • Feel free to trade dark chocolate for milk chocolate (or visa versa) for your personal taste buds
  • Aside from that follow the recipe word for word - it is a chemical reaction
  • Always use a timer for the oven part
  • Clean up everything whilst they're in the oven
  • Keep the oven door shut aside from halfway through for turning them - unless you wish to wait longer?
  • Only begin to prepare the icing once the cakes are cool, otherwise it might set whilst you wait
  • Push a skewer or cocktail stick through the cake to work out if it's cooked (i.e. it comes out clean)
  • For more experimental baking at home I use re-usable silicon cases and keep the paper ones for cakes I share with others

5. Practise and Develop

As with most life skills the secret is to practice, practice, practice. Once you feel accomplished with the basic cake or muffin recipe you can start experimenting with different flavours or perfecting the decorating process (which is what I'm currently trying to master) or moving onto another types of recipe such as large cakes or meringues. 

One of the reasons I take so many pictures is so I can document my progress. If you look through my Instagram  you'll see a big change in my cakes and how adventurous I've been. From some messy looking cakes towards some perfectly formed brownies and the 99 cone cupcakes I made last week I've definitely made progress. Plus I actively keep track of what recipes I've made and which I'm yet to try and I'm always having a nosey on Pinterest for some extra ideas. 


Happy baking beginner bakers! 


Morag
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How I Looked: H&M Neon Birds



Top: H&M
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Converse

Excuse the pissed off look in my face hahaha! And the hunched shoulders. 

This is my last in the "I bought and wore these in Dundee but didn't have my tripod so re-fashioned the outfits in my parent's back garden one night" series. Though I will need to get my interview outfit from last week up! 

Aside from the leopard print converse I found the outfit all in H&M after a day of shopping with little success and almost hating everything that was in the shops. It may already be well known that I love brights and neons (considering I graduated in a neon pink dress) so it was no guess I was drawn to this top. There is a skirt that uses the exact same material which I had spotted a Facebook friend wearing with a black top. However as I am no fan of a long skirt I decided to buy the top, teaming it with one of many designs from H&M's skirt range. 

I didn't mange to get a good picture of it the night I went into the garden to re-create four outfits but this instagram captures the ring I purchased that week from Maggie's Farm - a boutique in Dundee filled with absolute gems of accessories and clothing! 

Also ignore the grubby converse. I was heading to my favourite alternative nightclub in Dundee.

Lots and lots of boutique shop and converse love!

Morag x
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Review: Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter



Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter

Today I am going to review one of my favourite beauty products ever. Anyone who has known me a while, or has looked at me properly, will probably know that I take nail care seriously and that nail varnish is a very important part of my 'look'. I have been painting my nails since I first hit secondary school (before I was even wearing make-up on my face!) and cuticle cream/butter/lotion has been part of my beauty regime for possibly six years now. 

I was in Lush randomly (prior to my Lush obsession beginning) without any products in mind when I came across this. As someone who loves nails I obviously had to pick up the tester and immediately I fell in love. Right there in the shop I was able to see an immediate softness in the skin surrounding my nails. 

Admittedly my cuticles are in no dire need of repair - they are fairly neat and my nails grown quickly with just a bit of help from Sally Hensen nail strengthener. However I'm very prone to hangnails. If I don't use cuticle cream for maybe three days a hangnail will appear and annoy me to no end (last birthday party I was at I had a hangnail and it annoyed me until I had consumed half a bottle of wine). Because of this I tend to take some kind of cuticle cream away with me on holiday. Cuticle cream also helps soften the cuticles so they can be pushed back - leaving a much neater shape for bright nail polish. 

This stuff also lasts for ages with 50g being in the tub. You don't exactly need a lot to do all ten fingers (and all ten toes - as I do) though as with all Lush products, it has a sell-by date which truthfully I ignore because if the product still works and isn't mouldy I'll keep going! And this still works and doesn't have green stuff - a year later. 

As the tub states it can be used on dry skin on heels and elbows too - which I use as an extra layer of moisture on these area on top of my regular body moisturiser. My skin on my body is naturally soft (I'll go as far to say the natural softness of body is one of my favourite features) so if you have really dry patches I can't vouch for how well this will work for you. 

The only negative thing I will say that it does take a while to dry and the formulae is quite oily. Though for the softness it provides my nails and it's ability to keep hangnails at bay (if used daily) makes that a small significant point in my view. 

Overall I cannot speak more highly of this product and thoroughly recommend it and imagine it will eventually land up in my re-purchased products category. 

Morag
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How I Looked: Leopard Print H&M



Dress: H&M kids section
Shoes: International - years ago!
Rings: Next and Local vintage shop

This maybe isn't my favourite look from recent weeks but within this post I will share a shopping tip! I am 5ft5 and a size 10 but this dress fits me perfectly - which I found in the kids section of H&M! I certainly can't fit into all kids clothes but H&M has served me quite well in the cheap clothes department. Unless you're really tall or have massive boobs you should be bale to occasionally find some clothing that doesn't get taxed! 

This outfit had been worn for a night out for a birthday/'last time we might ever see some people' night. Being a kids outfit does mean that it is really comfortable to wear, being breathable fabric and all!

Ignore my squinty eyes. haha. 

Loads of leopard love!

Morag x
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Recipe: Vegan Mac & Cheese


Home made vegan mac and cheese

As regular readers will know I've been completely vegetarian for almost a year now and have since the beginning of 2011 been experimenting with vegan food, with one of my mid-year resolutions being to master the art of some vegan dishes.

This dish was crafted within my last few months in Dundee whilst I still had my own almost-vegan kitchen to my entire self. I had purchased some Cheezly soya cheese for a specific dish and needed to use it up so decided to veganise an all-time favourite. For me, my macaroni cheese has always been laced with extras such as onions, peas and in my meat-eating days snippets of bacon. I think the actual term is Macaroni Romano according to my Home Economic recipes but we'll be simple and call it Mac and Cheese+. 

There are many ways to make mac and cheese, this is simply mine but mac and cheese is by no means the hardest dish to turn vegan. Good luck even if you don't take mine. 

Ingredients
50g macaroni pasta
Oil to fry (I use olive)
1 small clove Garlic, chopped
Half an onion, finely chopped (How To Chop an Onion!)
15g flour, you may need more
Unsweetened soya milk, 125ml as a start, but you may have to add more - important that you use unsweetened, as soya is naturally sweet and this dish is savoury.
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard to give the soya taste a kick
Soya cheese, grated (for measurements - how ever cheesy you want it to be! Try 50g as a start)
Canned peas/canned sweetcorn/whatever type of vegetable takes your fancy

N.B. The lack of measurements has a lot do with me not measuring my own food. I use my own eyes as judgement, unless I'm baking 'cause that can be a lesson in science. I know this can be hard for people who aren't as experienced in the kitchen but I've decided to provide a recipe 'cause my food pictures get the most attention!

Method
1. Put the pasta on to boil
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan - this can take a few minutes depending on your stove
3. Gently fry the garlic and onions, don't let them brown
4. Gently add in the flour, let it brown slightly and take off the heat immediately afterwards.
5. If it off the heat yet? Okay. Add the milk bit by bit. And stir consistently.
6. When you feel it's ready then return to the stove and bring it to the boil stirring consistently (milk can burn easily) and it should thicken
7. Once it has thickened take off the heat, and add the mustard
8. Add the drained pasta (which should have cooked by now!)
9. Mix in the grated cheese
10. Mix in the canned (or cooked) vegetables of your own choice.

I take no responsibility for how my experiments turn out in your own kitchen :P


 
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Review: Lush I Love Juicy Shampoo


Lush: I Love juicy shampoo for greasy hair Lush: I Love juicy shampoo for greasy hair

I've said before that when it comes to skincare, natural products are what keeps my skin at its best, when it comes to haircare however it can be quite the opposite story. I've never had much luck when it comes to using natural ingredients on my hair with them either making my hair oilier or matting it all up. With oily roots and naturally dry ends (given how long my hair is!) it can be quite hard to find a hair care regime that works, period. However since finding out that the products I've been using for years have been tested on animals it was time to go on a new shampoo and conditioner hunt. 

I Love Juicy has an absolutely gorgeous fruity smell to it, which was part of my reasoning for choosing it over Big Sea Salt shampoo (which I might still try in the future!). After washing my hair it certainly did remove grease however I did need quite a bit of shampoo in my hand to feel really refreshed. And I did find grease built up again easily - not heavily, nothing noticeable to another person but I had to be strict to always wash my hair daily as if I left it more than 36 hours I'd look greasy (do bear in mind my natural hair type is oily - you might be different!). 

All in all I Love Juicy will do for now as a cruelty-free shampoo and will probably enter my re-purchased products category however I anticipate that I will also be trying out other cruelty-free or natural products to see if one of them are better suited for my hair type.

Lots of love
Morag x 
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How I Looked: Kelly Brook at New Look



Shoes: New Look

This is yet another dress that I wore in my last few weeks in Dundee (as seen in week 29) and later wore again in my parents back garden for the sake of blogging! Just like my previous outfit post this is another dress that I found in the sales but is still available online for even cheaper than I had bought it.

At first I thought it was maybe a bit too fussy - even for me. And in the end I teamed it with no accessories aside from stud earrings and kept my nails a baby blue as I didn't want to add yet another colour to the ensemble. The pattern, despite busy, is absolutely beautiful and has a strong exotic or Asian influence. I did originally put my hair up thinking that keeping my hair away from the dress would show the pattern more clearly but I then felt too formal as if I was heading to a wedding (in fact I seen a Facebook photo of someone wearing this dress to a wedding!).

Lots of love

Morag x
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Liebster Blog Award




The Liebster Blog Award is one I've had before but the 'tasks' with this train of the award are slightly different. I'm a little bit strange (over-sharer might be the correct word) in that I like answering little questions and divulging facts about myself. This time I have to write 11 facts about myself, answer 11 questions from the award-giver, ask 11 question to the people I am about to share this with and then award 11 people. 

I received this award from Hayley of Water Painted Dreams who blogs about beauty and life!

11 Facts About Me

  1. I am an only child and even as an adult I still wish I had a sibling, even though I should be grateful for loads of experiences which might not have been possible otherwise.
  2. My favourite Olympic sport is gymnastics and I was super grinning to see my favourite team and favourite sport coming together these past two weeks.
  3. I don't have much of an accent. It's not rare for people to not even be able to tell what country I'm from. I'm a born and bred Scot, people!
  4. The part of my personality that I get told is most surprising because of my appearance is that I smoke. Albeit just when I'm drinking but apparently I strike people as the sport of person that would hate smoking.
  5. When it comes to dating my deal-breakers are: not being adventurous, eating junk food all the time and being unhygienic/not taking care of their appearance.
  6. I have visited four continents in less than 22 years. And I don't see visiting all seven before I'm 30 as unrealistic. Yes, I want to see Antarctica.
  7. I'm not a big TV fanatic but shows I do love are Vampire Diaries, The IT Crowd and Gossip Girl.
  8. I know there's certain foods that are hard to eat quietly (such as crunchy salad) but it really irks me when people chew loudly, or don't even attempt to chew quietly. I know someone who can't even eat a sandwich without me knowing what exactly is happening in their mouth. Boke. 
  9. I abstain from caffeine because I'm addicted to it. One coffee will always turn into more.
  10. I get hay-fever and travel sickness. When I go on holiday I always carry tablets.
  11. My favourite band ever are the Goo Goo Dolls, and I seen them live in 2006

 

11 Questions From Hayley

  1. What are your favourite types of blog posts to read?
  2. I really high street fashion posts or posts that contain realistic life advice, such as Sarah Von or Alle.
  3. Recommend me a good book?
  4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath if you've never read it. Or for something less well known anything by Torey Hayden.
  5. What is the nearest object to you that is yellow?
  6. A UV pen.
  7. What was the last nail polish you used?
  8. A Barry M Purple shade which is on my nails right now.
  9. What is your favourite perfume?
  10. My signature scent is actually Ann Summers. Classy times.
  11. What are your opinions on guest bloggers?
  12. Generally if I subscribe to a blog it's because I like what that blogger has to say. If you're going on hiatus, just go on hiatus. If you're good, readership will pick up again.
  13. Naked palette or Naked 2 palette?
  14. Never tried either.
  15. What is the most money you've ever spent on a beauty item?
  16. Benefit's Confessions of a Concealaholic. It was worth it though.
  17. Cadbury chocolate or galaxy chocolate?
  18. Don't really eat chocolate, but probably Cadbury.
  19. What are you most looking forward to this Autumn?
  20. Hopefully getting a graduate job and moving out of my parents. And wearing my faux fur waistcoat again! 
  21. What type of posts do you enjoy writing the most?
  22. My outfit posts. The easiest to write. 

11 Questions From Me

  1.  Blue or black ink? Don't care?
  2. Are you big home decor kind of person or do you leave your house as a shell?
  3. What do you wear when you're indoors all day and no one will see you?
  4. What blog have you been possibly following the longest?
  5. House party, bar, pub or club?
  6. What do you fan-boy/fan-girl over?
  7. What is an issue you care really strongly and passionately about?
  8. What are the essential elements to your 'look'?
  9. What makes you cringe most looking back at teenage photos of yourself? 
  10.  Feature of your face/body do you always like to accentuate? 
  11. How many pieces of technology do you carry with you regularly?

 

11 Bloggers

Betty Leopard
Bewitchery
Charade
Lost My Heart in Wonderland
The Wallflower
Andrea Marie
Vanilla Crush
Evehut
A Little More
Parisian Orchid
My Life As a Teacup

Enjoy your awards and my questions - I'll try and make sure I get round you all in order to make sure you know you've been nominated!

Morag x
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How I Looked: Kill My Boyfriend



Dress: Wal G  at Topshop
Shoes: New Look 

I didn't take any outfit photos whilst in my last month of Dundee as I forgot to take my tripod back down and part of my DLSR charger.  So in the next fortnight you will get pictures of me recreating the outfits in my parents' back garden. :) I'm choosing this one first as I bought it early July and back then it was on sale and I could only get it online so wanted the outfit up before anyone wanting it too would have to trace it through eBay.

I originally spied this dress back in May in Bank in Dundee but it was nearing the end of the month so put it aside (forgetting that sale items need to be grabbed) thinking I might get it for a friend's birthday once my pay had come through. But by then it was gone from the shop and I settled on the fish playsuit from New Look for that night out. I then managed to find it on the Topshop website and was made up!

The only thing I'll say about this outfit is that the skirt was much shorter than I anticipated and I felt quite self-conscious that night always watching how I sat and was grateful it wasn't a windy night! Plus, it's a 'no bra' dress so mine just disappeared haha.

Morag x


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