Foodie Friday: Loaded Avocado Boats with Feta & Smashed Mint Peas (Vegetarian / Adapted Tess Ward recipe)

Friday, 19 January 2018

Loaded Avocado Boats with Feta & Smashed Mint Peas (Vegetarian / Adapted Tess Ward recipe)
Bored of Avo Toast? Try something different with your avocados this weekend, like these Loaded Avocado Boats that can be served as a starter or a side (or even as a cheeky afternoon snack if you're feeling particularly peckish!). 

I was recently gifted a bunch of healthy eating cookbooks by a friend who is moving abroad next month, and amongst them was a copy of The Naked Diet by Tess Ward which had this interesting little recipe in it. I have adapted it and made it simpler though, as the original version has the peas as more of a purée which I wasn't so keen on when I made it. Instead, I've lightly 'smashed' the peas which gives them a chunkier texture that makes this side or starter feel more substantial to eat.

Loaded Avocado Boats with Feta & Smashed Mint Peas (Vegetarian / Adapted Tess Ward recipe)
Ingredients:
(serves 2)
  • 100g Petit Pois Peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 75g Feta or vegetarian Greek Style Cheese, cubed 
  • 1 Garlic Clove, crushed
  • 2tbsp Lime Juice
  • 2tbsp Fresh Mint Leaves, finely chopped
  • 2tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 ripe Avocados
  • Black Pepper, to garnish
  • Chia Seeds, to garnish (optional)

Method:
  • Cook the Peas and place into a bowl. Add the Garlic, Feta, Lime Juice, Mint and Olive Oil, and lightly 'smash' everything together with a fork. 
  • Slice the Avocados in half, remove the stones and score a few criss-crosses into the flesh. Arrange onto plates and pile on the smashed mixture.
  • Add a sprinkle of Black Pepper and Chia Seeds to finish it off. Enjoy!

Loaded Avocado Boats with Feta & Smashed Mint Peas (Vegetarian / Adapted Tess Ward recipe)
Additional Dip & Storage
The smashed Pea mixture makes a super tasty 'dip' that you can enjoy with crackers or scoopable crisps/mini poppadoms, and will keep in the fridge for 2 days. Great for parties! If catering for vegans, simply skip the cheese or use a vegan-friendly alternative. Easy!

What's your favourite way to eat Avocados?

Mid-Week Pamper Treat: STARSKIN The Master Cleanser Detoxing Sea Kelp Leaf Face Mask review

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

STARSKIN The Master Cleanser Detox Sea Kelp Leaf Face Mask reviewI don't know why, but it's been one of those weeks where my skin has just been feeling and looking dull and crappy, and we've still got time to kill until the weekend arrives. It's time for an intervention, so it's over to you, STARSKIN The Master Cleanser!

I've tried and tested a lot of sheet masks in my time as a beauty blogger, but this one from STARSKIN perhaps holds the crown for the longest name and is one of the strangest that I've ever used. All of the sheet masks that I've tried from STARSKIN in the past have been this amazing bio-cellulose type of material which feels like a second skin and helps to lock in all that serum goodness. 

The Master Cleanser, however, is completely different as the 'sheet' is made from 100% organic Kelp Leaves. Yes, you heard that right, brown algae Seaweed! This makes a lot of sense when you think about it because Kelp is packed full of minerals and vitamins, and Seaweed wraps are used in treatments in countless spas up and down the country. Add to this a super serum cocktail of skin-boosting ingredients, and you're onto a potential skincare winner!

STARSKIN The Master Cleanser Detox Sea Kelp Leaf Face Mask review
What's in it?
Aside from the base composition of Kelp Leaves, this mask is infused with 25ml of serum that contains 90.37% organic botanical extracts and features the key ingredients of Licorice Root, Molasses, Probiotic Lactobacillus, Camelia Oil, Centella Asiatica, Bamboo, Fermented Soybeans, Fermented Chlorella, Fenugreek and Phytosterols

Full inci: Laminaria Japonica, Aqua (Water), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Molasses, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Paeonia Suffruticosa Root Extract, Laminaria Japonica, Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract, Bisabolol, Xanthan Gum, Fatty Acids, Dong Quai Angelica Keiskei Extract Powder, Fenugreek Seeds Extract Powder, Fermented Chlorella Extract, Lactobacillus, Glycerin, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Corylus Avellana Seed Oil, Citrus Junos, Dioscorea Opposite, Lyophilized Royal Jelly Powder, Leonurus Sibiricus Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Adenosine, Phytosterols, Centella Asiatica, Anemarrhena Asphodeloides, Aniba Rosaeodora Wood Oil, Polyglutamic Acid, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Linalool, Lavandula Angustifolia Oil, Angelica Keiskei Leaf/Stem, Avena Sativa, Bambusa Vulgaris Leaf/Stem, Plantago Asiatica, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia Fruit Oil, D-Limonene, Geraniol, Citronellol, Phenoxyethanol.

What does it claim to do & who can use it?
The Master Cleanser is described as a "rejuvenating treatment sheet mask which refreshes and purifies the stressed and tired skin". It helps to brighten, soften, hydrate (including clinically proven 72-hour moisture), reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and increase elasticity.  It's ideal for all skin types, though STARSKIN recommends that sensitive skin should only wear the mask for 5 minutes, so make sure to do a patch test first if that applies to you.

STARSKIN The Master Cleanser Detox Sea Kelp Leaf Face Mask review
How do I use it?
After using your regular cleanser, pat skin dry and open the packet. The mask is in two pieces, so peel these away from the plastic carefully and apply the bottom half first, and then overlap the top half. Leave on for 15 minutes (or 5 if you have sensitive skin) and wipe away any excess serum with a damp flannel. You can then follow up with your normal moisturiser.

First impressions?
This mask is INCREDIBLY wet, to the point where it felt very slimey. The serum was literally dripping out of the packet when I opened it, so I'd suggest using it over a sink or in the bathtub to avoid any drips on your floor. There's an immediately strong scent of seaweed which was a little nauseating at first, but soon dissipated as time went on. As the mask is so wet, applying it was a tricky task, especially as it's in two parts - it took me a good few minutes to get it on and it's almost impossible to smooth out properly. 

Once on, I felt a slight tingling sensation like it was 'working', but it wasn't irritating or anything like that and I didn't experience any redness, although I can see why they suggest that sensitive skin types should only use it for 5 minutes. It was difficult to keep the mask on for the full 15 minutes though, as it kept sliding around, but once the time was up, I removed it and my skin felt very sticky/tacky to the touch. I used a damp washcloth and removed the remaining serum (there was still a lot of it!), and my skin was much happier. In the mirror, I noticed that my face looked visibly brighter and less tired, and I could feel that it was very plumped up and super smooth

STARSKIN The Master Cleanser Detox Sea Kelp Leaf Face Mask review
There's no way to make this mask look good lol!
Overall thoughts?
I used this mask in the morning and my makeup applied perfectly afterwards, so it's definitely something that I would recommend using before a night out or special occasion. The moisturising effects lasted for a good 48 hours and I loved the instant brightening/plumping results. However, the fit wasn't the greatest, it was very slippy/slimey, and I'm not sure if I saw all of the benefits of the mask being made from Kelp, so I definitely prefer the bio-cellulose material of STARSKIN's other masks over this one. A little hit and miss for me!

STARSKIN The Master Cleanser Detoxing Sea Kelp Leaf Face Mask* (1 mask, £12.50) is available from various stockists including BeautyBay.com

 Have you tried a face mask like this before?

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Winter Haircare: 4 Products To Help Save Dry Hair & Problem Scalps

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Winter Haircare: 4 Products To Help Save Dry Hair & Problem Scalps
Whilst we know that cold weather can have a negative impact on our skin (read my Hydrating Serums post here if you're looking to upgrade your Winter skincare routine), it can be all too easy to forget that our hair and scalp can also benefit from a helping hand (or two) during this time of the year. 

My hair is naturally very dry and I've been dealing with a sensitive scalp since I was a teenager. Most of the time, I can slap on a good hair oil or mask once a week, and everything will fine and dandy as long as I avoid SLS in my haircare (I discovered a few years ago that this was the main ingredient that was causing my scalp to become drier than the Sahara desert - ditch it if you think it could be a problem for you too!). However, when Winter hits and especially when temperatures drop to freezing, I have to give my cold-battered tresses and dried out scalp some extra TLC.  

So if your hair is feeling drier than usual or your scalp is starting to drive you insane, here are some products that I've been using recently which can definitely help. You can also use them at any time of the year if you have dry hair, a problematic scalp and/or have been hitting the curling/straightening irons too hard!

Winter Haircare: 4 Products To Help Save Dry Hair & Problem ScalpsTony Maleedy Juniper Scalp Therapy Shampoo* (250ml, £17.50, link)
Specially formulated for problematic scalps and clinically developed to help treat dryness, dandruff, and inflammation/irritation, Tony Maleedy's naturally anti-mitotic Juniper Scalp Therapy Shampoo is one of those products that I wish I had known about sooner. It features six natural plant oils which are revered for their therapeutic and antibacterial properties; Niper Oil, Corn Mint Oil, Thyme Oil, Tea Tree Oil, Rosemary Oil and Eucalyptus Oil. They not only help with dryness but also improve the overall health of the scalp, that in turn can help to reduce hair loss and provide the right conditions for healthy hair growth as well. It smells strongly herbal as a result and you need to leave it on to do its magic for a good five minutes or so before rinsing, but I've found this shampoo so useful for getting rid of a dry and flaky scalp quickly and saw a noticeable difference after just one wash. Although it feels gentle, it is quite clarifying as these kinds of shampoos often are, so it's something that I would alternate with another shampoo if you wash your hair frequently. Highly recommended though!

Natura Siberica Alladale Repairing Natural Hair Mask* (120ml, £7.99, link)
This affordable hair mask is an excellent repairing treatment for anyone who has dry or damaged hair. The superstar ingredients in this mask are Scottish Wild Thistle and certified organic Siberian Cedar that help to deeply strengthen and moisturise damaged hair within just 5-7 minutes.  It has a lovely texture and performance wise, it beats some of the higher-end haircare products that I have in my bathroom, making it a fantastic budget-friendly discovery. If you colour your hair a lot or are simply a little too heavy handed with heated styling tools, this hair mask is a must-try. 98% natural and created in collaboration with the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the Scottish Highlands which you can find out more about here

Winter Haircare: 4 Products To Help Save Dry Hair & Problem Scalps
Organic Shop Organic Avocado & Honey Express Repair Hair Mask* (250ml, £2.49, link)
Another hair mask that my dry hair has been lapping up recently is from the Organic Shop. Their Organic Avocado & Honey Express Hair Mask is 99% natural, free from parabens, silicones, mineral oils and SLS, and features certified organic Avocado Oil and Honey to restore weather-beaten hair to its former glory. It has a reassuringly thick consistency that spreads onto the hair easily and can be used as a quick and easy 2-3 minute treatment as and when you feel your hair needs that extra shot of hydration. Amazingly, this hair mask is only £2.49!

Natura Siberica Professional Oblepikha Scalp Scrub* (200ml, £5, link)
Lastly, for this feature I wanted to give a special mention to this Oblepikha Scalp Scrub which is from the Natura Siberica range (you know something is Winter-friendly when it uses plant extracts from Siberia!). If you have a dry and flaky scalp, you'll want to include some kind of exfoliating product in your haircare routine to remove that build up of dead skin cells, and a scalp scrub does this job beautifully. This one utilises a range of wild-harvested Siberian Herbs and also includes Altai Sea Buckthorn, Argan Oil, Calendula, Amino Acids and Raspberry Seeds, to give a seriously deep exfoliation that stimulates the scalp, helping to boost blood flow to the hair follicles, balance sebum production and keep dandruff at bay. It's a little tricky to rinse out all of the scrubby bits (this isn't something that you can do in five minutes!), but the results are definitely worth the extra effort and I love how refreshed and clean my scalp feels afterwards.

What are your favourite hair products for Winter?

Home Fragrance: Staying Cosy with JOIK Candles

Monday, 15 January 2018

Home Fragrance: Staying Cosy with JOIK Candles
Candles are my favourite way to instantly make any room feel cosy and inviting, and my whole house has been smelling good thanks to these gorgeous scented candles from JOIK.

JOIK are a cruelty-free, natural Estonian brand who have been around since 2005. Candles were the first products that the company began to make and sell after founder Eva-Maria Õunapuu struggled to find high-quality, non-paraffin based candles where she lived. She wanted something that smelt amazing, but also burned cleanly, thus JOIK was born, and they now sell have a wide variety of natural toiletries which range from skincare, body oils, soaps, lip balms and much more. 

I haven't explored much of what they offer yet, but what I have tried, I've instantly loved, such as their delectable White Chocolate Bath Truffles that are pure pampering indulgence and amazing for dry skin! All of JOIK's products are handmade in small batches in Estonia, and everything has been formulated to be skin friendly, free of parabens, petrochemicals, sulphates and other harmful ingredients, plus their price points are very affordable with eye creams from £13 for example.

Candles though are what first attracted me to the brand and their generous range of scents has something for everyone's tastes. Each candle is hand-poured and made from natural soy wax for a clean burn that also lasts 50% longer than a paraffin based equivalent, so you can expect to get up to 30 hours burning time from each one. Here are just three JOIK candles that I've been burning recently - all of which are very cosy, warm and Wintery fragrances.

Home Fragrance: Staying Cosy with JOIK Candles
JOIK Cinnamon Coffee Scented Soywax Candle* (145g, £13.50, link)
They say that if you want to sell a house, make sure that you put a pot of coffee on before your potential buyers arrive, as the aroma is classed as one of the most universally inviting fragrances and I'd have to agree. Cinnamon Coffee is a deliciously rich blend of freshly brewed Coffee with subtle hints of warming, spicy Cinnamon, sweet notes of Caramel and creamy Vanilla to top it all off. It honestly smells good enough to drink!

JOIK Spiced Cranberry Scented Soywax Candle* (145g, £13.50, link
Described as JOIK's bestselling Christmas scent, Spiced Cranberry combines the very best of the typical seasonal spices (Cinnamon, Cardamon, Nutmeg and Clove), and marries these together with a strong fruity and tart fragrance of Cranberries, for an overall scent that's wonderfully spicy and fruity. I know it's such a cliché to call this 'Christmas in a jar', but it really is, and I'll happily continue burning it until Spring comes around.

JOIK Apple Glögg Scented Soywax Candle* (145g, £13.50, link)
If you prefer Apple scents over Cranberries, Apple Glögg will give you all the Wintery warming vibes that you crave, with its cosy aroma of mulled Apple juice mixed with Cinnamon, Cardamon and Clove. This is the one that I love to burn when it's especially cold and gloomy outside, as it always seems to make everything feel that bit cheerier indoors!

Shop the full range of JOIK Candles online at lovelula.com with free delivery worldwide on orders over £15

Have you tried any of these?

Foodie Friday: Homemade Seeded Soda Bread (Elly Pear recipe / Vegetarian)

Friday, 12 January 2018

Homemade Seeded Soda Bread (Elly Pear recipe)
One of my New Year's resolutions is to have a go at making my own bread, but I haven't found the time yet to throw myself into it completely. Instead, I've opted for a much quicker and easier Seeded Soda Bread recipe to try out this week, which is perfect for anyone who is busy or new to baking.

Soda Bread is one of Ireland's national treasures. This age-old bread isn't something that you see often in the supermarkets here in England, but like so much packaged food, it's always better when you make your own from scratch anyway! Soda Bread is a wonderful 'quick bread' as it doesn't require any kneading or proving, feels more like you're baking a cake and it's ready in less than an hour.

Homemade Seeded Soda Bread (Elly Pear recipe)
There are many recipe variations, with the two main ingredients being wheat flour and buttermilk. I'm sure there are ways that you could make this gluten-free or vegan though, but I decided to follow the food writer Elly Pear's Seeded Soda Bread recipe to see how it would turn out, and I'm pleased to say that the results were delicious! I love adding seeds and nuts to bread, and this is a great way to include some in your daily diet. It's very filling (one thick slice is usually enough for me) and would be perfect to have at breakfast to set you up for the day. Try it with smashed avocado, poached eggs or slather on some nut butter!

Budget tip: If you don't want to buy lots of bags of different seeds to make this, simply grab a single serve mixed seed pot instead. Aldi and Lidl shoppers can find them near the tills for a mere 60p and they contain all of the seeds mentioned in the recipe, except sesame seeds.

N.B: I made one or two tweaks to Elly's original recipe as I swapped the Brown Sugar for Coconut Sugar, didn't use Poppy Seeds (couldn't find any!), and I used all the other Seeds inside the bread and added extra for the top. 

Homemade Seeded Soda Bread (Elly Pear recipe)
Ingredients:
(makes 1 loaf)
  • 225g Plain Flour
  • 225g Wholemeal Flour
  • 1 heaped tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 heaped tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 2tbsp Coconut Sugar
  • 1tbsp Sunflower Seeds
  • 1tbsp Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tbsp Pumpkin Seeds
  • 20g Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1stp Sea Salt Flakes
  • 500ml Buttermilk
  • 30g Butter, melted
  • Extra seeds for topping (optional)


Method:
  • Preheat the oven to 200C. In a large bowl, sift the Plain Flour and then sift in the Wholemeal Flour, making sure to tip in any bits from the wholemeal as you're simply aerating the flour and not removing anything.
  • Add the Bicarbonate of Soda, Cream of Tartar, Sugar, all the Seeds, Walnuts and Salt and gently stir together. 
  • Make a well in the centre and slowly pour in the Buttermilk, mixing gently, but thoroughly. You'll get a slightly loose and sticky cake type of batter as a result.
  • Brush the inside of a loaf tin with some of the melted Butter, and then pour in the mixture, evening out the top with a knife. Brush the rest of the Butter on the top. Sprinkle over some extra seeds if desired.
  • Bake for 30 mins, then turn it around and lower the heat to 150C, and bake for a further 25-30 minutes until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. If the bread is starting to brown too much on the top at this stage, cover it in foil before returning it to the oven.
  • Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool and enjoy!

Storage: Once cooled, this bread can be sliced and popped into freezer bags where you can keep it for up to 4 months (defrost at room temperature when you want to use it again), or store it in a bread bin for up to a week. 

What's your favourite bread to make at home?

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Mid-Week Pamper Treat: Etude House Heating Eye Mask review

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Etude House Heating Eye Mask review
As I'm typing this, I'm wrapped in what seems like a million blankets and there's a steaming mug of Hot Chocolate next to my desk - can you tell that I'm not a fan of being cold?! So when I was looking through my stash of new products to try out, all I could think of was 'anything warming', and this Heating Eye Mask from Etude House shot straight to the top of the list!

Etude House Heating Eye Mask review
Etude House are a hugely popular Korean beauty brand, who are perhaps most famous for their cutesy makeup and vast range of sheet masks. I stumbled across their Heating Eye Mask in last month's Mask Time box (check out my review here), and given this bitterly cold snap that we're currently going through in the UK, I couldn't wait to try it out. I've used a similar product from Optrex in the past (reviewed here), so I was curious to see how it would compare. 

Etude House's Heating Eye Mask has been designed to bring 'comfort and gentle warmth to tired eyes', and the soft, cushiony texture of the mask has been lightly infused with an aromatherapy essence which gives off a very subtle scent of lavender. It comes in a sealed packet and once opened, immediately self-activates and starts to warm up. The mask has stretchy sides that you slip over your ears to keep it in place, and it can be used for up to 20 minutes to relax sore and tired eye muscles.

Etude House Heating Eye Mask review
Overall thoughts?
Wearing the mask was really comfortable and it forces you to close your eyes and switch off from the world, which is always a good thing to do! It felt pleasantly warm throughout the 20 minutes and when I took it off, my eyes looked a lot less puffy and they felt so relaxed, like I'd just had a decent night's sleep. I think these Heating Eye Masks are ideal for travelling, especially on planes, and they would come in handy for anyone who has to stare at a computer screen all day at work - maybe keep one or two in your desk drawer and pop them on when the boss isn't looking if you have your own office room! The only downside? They're sadly one use only which isn't very environmentally friendly, but as a one-off pamper treat now and then, I don't think it's too bad. Available in packs or singularly, they're a cheaper option than the Optrex eye masks (if you can find them in the UK) and provide the same results. Plus, they are super cute ;)

 Etude House Heating Eye Mask* (around £2 each, link)

Have you ever tried a self-heating eye mask?

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