Christmas Cakes: Cinnamon Spiced Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting


With only one week to go until Christmas Day, I'm already dreaming of all the delicious food I'm going to be making (and eating) over the festive holidays. So much so that today, I whipped up a batch of these lovely cinnamon spiced cupcakes with cream cheese frosting to fill my home with a bit of Christmas Spirit.

This year, I've taken on the responsibility of cooking Christmas dinner for 20 at my boyfriend's family home. It will be the first time that I've actually cooked Christmas dinner (or cooked for that many people at once) and I'm rather looking forward to it.

The kitchen has become one of my favourite places over the last few years so I can't wait to spend the final days of 2016 cooking up a storm with a gin and tonic in hand. Armed with a fridge full of tasty, traditional Christmas foods, I can't wait to get my fabulously tacky Christmas apron on and put on a spiffingly-good spread!

What I'm most looking forward to is doing Christmas dinner my way (inspired by my wonderful mother, of course). Homemade soup, fresh bread, cold starters, a hearty main featuring every single seasonal vegetable at its best, followed by a selection of desserts; my tastebuds are tingling at the thought!

But before I spill all of my Christmas dinner secrets, I'll leave you with the recipe for my cinnamon spiced cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Delicious, moist, fragrant and sprinkled with traditional Christmas spices, these cupcakes are the perfect festive treat to bake and share with your loved ones and to really get you in the mood for Christmas.

Happy baking and Merry Christmas!


Ingredients (makes 16 cupcakes)
200g of plain wholemeal flour
200g of dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
160g of unsalted butter
160ml of soya milk
Orange zest

For the icing:
300g of icing sugar
50g of unsalted butter
125g of cream cheese
Walnuts to decorate

Method
1.  Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170 degrees C.
2. Sift all of the dry ingredients (wholemeal flour, dark brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt) into a bowl and combine
3. Add the cubed butter and mix until the mixture resembles sand.
4. Add the eggs, one by one and mix in the maple syrup.
5. Add the soya milk, vanilla extract and zest and beat together until the batter is smooth.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
7. Cool completely before frosting.
8. To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together using an electric whisk until completely mixed.
9. Add the cream cheese and continue to beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
10. Pipe the icing onto each cupcake and garnish with chopped walnuts.
12. Share with family and friends and enjoy the taste of Christmas!

Up, Close And Personal: SmoothSkin Gold IPL Trial Week 7



 If the human body makes you squeamish, look away now...
Because this is about to get personal.

7 weeks ago, I started my permanent hair removal trial on my legs, underarms and bikini area with the SmoothSkin Gold IPL device. If you missed out on my introductory blog, you can read it here. I've already mentioned in great detail how self-conscious I am of my body hair; we just don't get on and we never will so quite frankly, I'd much rather it didn't exist at all. That's the ultimate goal, anyway and that's why I'm dabbling with the SmoothSkin device.

With an open mind, an overly hairy disposition and a sprinkle of optimism, I started on a journey that has the potential to reduce my hair growth but to what extent is unknown. The SmoothSkin Gold IPL device claims to be one of the most powerful home-use ILP devices on the market and can treat unwanted hairs within minutes but of course, every hair is different.

So before using the SmoothSkin Gold IPL device, I documented the hair growth on my legs, underarms and bikini area with the knowledge that I would want to track my progress pre-IPL and throughout the trial. I visually monitored my progress week by week until I started seeing results that would translate on camera, which happened to be at Week 7 - just over half way through the suggested 12 week treatment programme.

Yet looking at the photographs - even as I'm about to press 'Publish', I'm not sure I have the courage to post them on my blog. Although it's one of the most natural things in the world, body hair makes me squeamish. No, let me rephrase that. My body hair makes me squeamish. It's made me so self-conscious for so many years that I'm programmed to feel disgusted by it.

It's not about anybody else. I would never judge somebody for being hairy because I understand the pain it can cause. It's about me and my relationship with my own body hair. But to recognise the results of the IPL treatment, you need some sort of photographic evidence, otherwise the effort is futile. The fact of the matter is that if this series of hair-related posts helps only one person to feel better about their own body hair or to find a hair reduction solution that's suitable for them, then it's worth the embarrassment of a few photos.

So without further ado, here are my results to date:

Week 0                                                                          Week 7

Week 0                                                              Week 7

First of all, it's worth relaying that the treatment process is quick, really easy and almost pain-free. The only requirement before you start a treatment session is to shave and then to zap away in a stamping motion for maximum precision. In terms of time, I can zap my whole bikini area and my underarms in less than 10 minutes and the device also has a 'gentle mode' button which reduces the energy released to benefit those who have sensitive skin.

Moving swiftly back to my results so far, I found that the treatment worked so quickly on my legs that I'm only having to zap them every two weeks. The hairs have also become so fair that my camera couldn't detect them so please excuse my lack of evidence. The treatment on my underarms is also showing good progress so far. As you can see, there are patches of hair that are noticeably thinner and it's also possible to see areas where the hair is not growing back at all.

However, the hair on my bikini area is a lot more coarse than anywhere else on my body and it's taking longer to disable the hair follicles. There is still progress and hair growth is reduced but my hair in this area is so strong (I also have more than one hair per follicle), which means more cycles to destroy and more time needed to destroy them.

So far, I'm happy with the treatment process and my results and I'm confident that I'll see a greater reduction in hair growth as I approach Week 12. 


To be continued...

Not-So-Guilty Pleasures: Cacao And Coconut Sugar Brownies





























I don't know anyone who doesn't like a chocolate brownie. 

And rightly so. If I'm craving a decadent, gooey, chocolatey treat, a brownie hits the spot every time. Whatever the occasion, a brownie always rises up to it. Satisfaction guaranteed. The perfect pick-me-up. Well - almost perfect.

I'm not going to beat around the bush here; brownies are hardly recognised for their nutritional value. Sure, they may provide us with a few moments of pure unadulterated pleasure but they're not great for our guts. So, today I thought I'd spend the day making healthy brownies. Healthy body, healthy mind and all that.


And it turns out, brownies don't have to be bad for you. There are so many recipe variations out there that are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free or made with beetroot or sweet potato or ground nuts... That's one of the things that I love about them; there are a million different ways to make a brownie and they all taste as fabulous as the next.

Today's brownie is supercharged and packed full of goodness. I've substituted a few key (nutritionally undervalued) ingredients with replacements from Indigo Herbs so they're wholesome and even a little bit good for you. Instead of cocoa, these brownies contain raw cacao powder, which is exceptionally high in essential minerals including iron, phosphorus and potassium. They're also made with organic coconut sugar, a low GI alternative to refined sugar which is better for maintaining blood sugar levels.

As well as a whole load of goodness, my brownie recipe is jam-packed full of texture: raisins, nuts, dark chocolate chunks and chia seeds to make every bite that bit more interesting. I'm sure you'll love them as much as I do - and your body will thank you for choosing a healthier alternative.

Happy baking!


Ingredients
100g of wholemeal flour
100g of coconut sugar
1 banana (mashed)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g of dark chocolate (70%+)
6 tablespoons of maple syrup 
6 tablespoons of cacao powder
3 tablespoons of coconut oil
4 tablespoons of chia seeds
45g of raisins
50g of pecans
Sprinkle of sea salt

Method 
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius / gas mark 3. Line a 20cm tin with baking paper and let the sides overhang.
2. Finely chop the dark chocolate and pecans and set aside.
3. Soak the chia seeds in 10 tablespoons of water and set aside.
3. Melt the coconut oil and remove from the heat.
4. Add the coconut sugar, cacao powder, mashed banana and salt to the oil and beat.
5. Leave to cool slightly then beat in the egg and stir in the flour, baking powder, maple syrup and raisins.
6. Pour the batter into the tin and spread evenly, then sprinkle dark chocolate on top.
7. Bake for 30 minutes until firm then cut into squares.







How do you like your brownie?

Me, Myself and I: Sinensis Chinese Herbal Facial



I've never been 100% happy with my naked skin. 

My complexion is overly pink and slightly oily, often blotchy, sometimes blemished with a few enlarged pores and - even at 25 - I still get spots. As much as I try to protect my face from Life, it's not always possible and bearing the brunt of the environment every day, I can understand why my skin sometimes needs a little extra TLC.

There are so many internal and external factors that affect our skin's condition: sunshine, wind, diet, cosmetics, hormones, temperature, air pollution, materials, alcohol, stress and stubble (kiss rash is a real thing, you know). There's not one day that goes by where our faces are not put under some sort of pressure. 365 days a year; that's a whole lot of pressure. 

So once in a while, it can only be beneficial that we seek professional help to keep our skin in check.


I've had a fair few facials in my life but I've never made the commitment to have them regularly. Although they've been pleasant experiences, the general feeling I get after a facial is that it's temporary. My skin feels super soft and hydrated immediately after but I've never noticed any long-term benefits. Having switched many of my cosmetics to natural products in the past few years, I found myself thinking about herbal facials - and that's when I discovered AcuMedic. 

AcuMedic, a leading Chinese medicine clinic based in Camden, recently launched a range of skincare treatments based around their own skincare brand, Sinensis. Sinensis products are cruelty free and packed full of pure, precious Chinese herbal extracts to purify and rejuvenate the skin.


Last week, after a long day of work, I made the trek from East London to Camden - in torrential rain may I add -  to visit AcuMedic for a 60 minute Sinensis Chinese Herbal Facial. The circumstances couldn't have been any more miserable yet, as soon as I entered the AcuMedic reception area, I felt instantly calmed.

I made myself comfortable at a table next to some very large windows and within minutes, I was introduced to my cosmetologist Justyna, who talked me through the Chinese Herbal Facial treatment and assessed my skin's condition. After getting to know my skin a little bit better, Justyna selected the products for the treatment that would be most beneficial for my skin type. 

Before undergoing any treatment with Sinensis products, a skin test is carried out to avoid any allergic reactions to the products. As the products contain a high level of natural herb extracts, the possibility of a reaction is slightly higher for initial treatments as many of us are used to using synthetic products and not accustomed to the botanics.


After Justyna was happy that I was not going to react to the products, I was shown to the treatment room. With idyllic sounds beginning to lull me into a relaxed state, Justyna began a light cleansing treatment, using Chinese herbal skincare, to gently prepare my face for my bespoke herbal mask.

Justyna then performed a deeper cleanse using special massage movements and followed with a Chinese facial scrub to draw out any impurities from my pores. After cleansing, the personalised herbal mask was applied and I was left to relax. The mask was removed and Justyna applied a second mask made of natural ingredients to deliver additional moisturisation. Following the masks came an acupressure massage on key areas of my face to stimulate circulation and relieve tension. 


I am a sucker for a good massage anyway but the facial acupressure massage was heavenly! I've never thought about how much stress accumulates in my face but it makes sense: I spend most of my days in front of screens, straining my eyes and screwing up my face but after the massage, I felt like a new woman. The facial ended with a cool Jade Roller, which has been used by the Chinese for centuries to close the pores, tighten the skin and relieve stress from the forehead. 

My immediate feeling after the facial was that my skin felt impeccably clear. I don't know about you but I love the clean-feeling brought about by taking my makeup off at the end of the day. But the clean-feeling I had after the Sinensis Chinese Herbal Facial was another level of clean. Squeaky clean, in fact and that can only be down to the specially formulated botanical products.

I was rather impressed by how deep they penetrated my skin in such a short period of time. 
Please ignore my big. pink face but as you can see from my post-facial selfie, my skin looks youthful, rejuvenated and radiant. Never before has my face felt this relaxed and that is all thanks to Justyna and her wonderful treatment. 

With my head - and my face - in the clouds, I gathered my belongings and just as I was about to leave, I was handed a cup of Amber Mountain tea from AcuMedic's adjacent tea shop China Life, for my journey home. Amber Mountain tea is a rare yellow tea known for lowering stress levels, slowing down the ageing process and boosting the immune system, so drinking this tea after the Sinensis Chinese Herbal Facial, I felt so relaxed that I almost didn't want to walk back to the tube. 

Being a green tea girl by nature, I absolutely loved it and will definitely be making another trip to China Life soon to taste more of their herbal teas. 




Have you ever had a Chinese herbal facial?








© Rosie Romance

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