Lizzyfied

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Month in review: October

Where do I start with this one? October has been absolutely manic for me. My boyfriend and I received the keys to our new apartment at the beginning of the month, and with that, a crazy few weeks of cleaning and decorating (and more cleaning) began. I’ll be honest. The first time I stepped into the new place, I had a near heart attack. The flat was so much dirtier and more outdated than I had remembered. (The last time I had seen the apartment was in March.) That was a bitter pill to swallow. The decorating process has given me more breakdowns than I signed up for. It has been annoyingly slow. And we are still a long way from calling the new place our home. So as I mentally prepare for another manic month of homeownership, here are my reflections on the month gone.

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Milk and Simple Vegan Christmas Cookies: A Recipe

I have something to admit. I am not a great baker. Why share a baking recipe then, you ask? Well, growing up my mother would bake the most amazing Christmas cookies each year. And each year I would vow to myself that I would do the same as a grown-up. Now that the Christmas season is approaching (am I too soon?), my baking thumb started to itch again. So I whipped up a recipe that is so foolproof and easy that even the most inept baker should be able to tackle these simple vegan Christmas cookies. When baking is this easy, even I can partake in it!

The base of these cookies is a simple, American-style biscuit. The cookies are chewy, soft and utterly delicious. What I love about American baking (as a non-baker) is the ease of the recipes. European-style biscuits require a finesse that I have yet to master. The saying goes after all: baking is science, cooking is an art. But American-style cookies are more of an art. You mix some dry ingredients together with some wet ingredients and 9 times out of 10 something delicious comes out of the oven. Even when you alter the recipes slightly, something yummy is bound to come out of your oven. Such as these oat cookies, filled with warm Christmassy ingredients, such as cinnamon, toasted pecans, and maple syrup.

The cookies are pretty delicious by themselves but even better with a coating of thick, dark chocolate. The softness and sweetness of the biscuit are beautifully contrasted by the hard and bitter chocolate layer. I prefer eating these cookies out of the fridge when they are cold and a little firmer. My boyfriend prefers them straight out of the oven with a glass of cold rice milk.

The recipe calls for only 11 ingredients and resembles that of a simple oat cookie. But due to the processing of the ingredients, the cookies become a bit more refined and would make for a great Christmas gift. In fact, I made these biscuits for a bake sale at work and they went down like a treat. (Although of course, the master bakers in my company brought infinitely more impressive creations. As I said, this is a beginners recipe.) Now without further ado, let’s get baking!

Recipe

Prep time: 30 minutes   Wait time: 2 hours Bake time: 12 minutes  Makes: 12 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup pecans

2 cups oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

A pinch of salt

2 tablespoons of coconut oil

7 tablespoons of plant milk (I used oat milk)

10 dates*

1/2 cup of maple syrup

100 grams dark baking chocolate

Instructions

1.  Preheat the oven the 180C. Then start by toasting the pecan nuts in a small pan on medium heat.

2. Blend the oats in a food processor until finely milled. Add the blended oats to a mixing bowl together with the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

3. In the same food processor mix the coconut oil together with the toasted pecans and blend until the mixture becomes a fine paste. Add the paste to the dry ingredients.

4. Mix the dates with the oat milk in the food processor until a wet paste consistency is reached. Add the paste of the mixing bowl as well together with the maple syrup.

5. Combine all the ingredients until a cookie dough is formed.

6. Scoop a little of the mixture into your hand and form a cookie. For consistency, you can flatten some dough on a clean surface sprinkled with some flour and cut out shapes using a mug or glass. Place the 12 cookies on a large baking tray.

7. Bake the cookies for around 12 minutes. Then let the cookies cool in the baking tray for at least an hour.

8. After one hour (if any of the cookies are left), you can melt the chocolate in a metal bowl hung over a pot of water on low heat. It is important that the water doesn’t boil to prevent seizing.

9. Dip the top of the cookies in the melted chocolate and put them back on the baking tray. Place the baking tray in the fridge and let the chocolate harden for at least an hour. After an hour, the cookies should be ready to eat.

Enjoy!

*The dates I used are soft and gooey, even though they are technically sold as dried dates. If your dates are really dry and hard, soak them in water for a few hours before starting the recipe.

The 7 rules of saving money

I am a pretty savvy saver if I say so myself. Growing up my parents kept a strict reign on the household budget. Not because we were struggling financially, but because my parents were equally savvy with their money. This inevitably rubbed off on me and so I have become an expert penny pincher. I know a lot of people struggle with money. I see it among my friends. They work full-time and make a decent living, yet never have enough money at the end of the month to put into savings. So today, I thought I would share my two cents on all things savings. I hope this goes without saying, but a disclaimer is in place. This advice is meant for people who make a comfortable living, not those who are struggling to make ends meet. Of course, anyone can benefit from these tips, but I wouldn’t want to suggest that poor people are poor because of their lack of saving skills. With that being said, here are my top 10 ways to save money!

1. Want the things you already have

We have an insatiable desire for more. This isn’t our fault, but basic psychology. We are flawed humans and can find this incredibly uncomfortable to deal with. Advertisers are cleverly playing into this discomfort by promising us all kinds of life improvements when we buy their products. But when we learn to sit with our discomfort and desire what we already have, we will not only become happier, but also save a ton of money.

2. Don’t buy the cheap stuff

This might sound counter-intuitive, but hear me out. We all known that a Primark t-shirt isn’t likely going to last as long as a high-quality garment that costs a little more. All those cheap shirts you keep replacing, add up. All that cheap furniture will have to thrown out before your next move. Instead of constantly buying poor quality items, invest in the durable stuff upfront. Invest in wardrobe stables, buy durable (second-hand) furniture and swap your plastic razors for a stainless steel one. A win for the planet and a win for your pocket. PLASTIC LINK

3. Pay yourself first

This is a classic in the world of saving. If you automatically deposit a certain amount of money each month into a savings account or investments, you cannot spend it. Treat that money as lost money and don’t ever put it back on your debit account (unless it is an emergency of course).

4. Keep track of everything

If you don’t know what you are spending, you won’t know where you can save. You also won’t be able to stick to a budget. So writing down every penny you spend is an important habit for financial health. I just use a simple homemade spreadsheet. If that seems too low-tech for you, I have heard great things about an app called Mint that tracks your money for you.

5. Set a budget for everything

Once you track everything, it is time to set some budgets. Is it really necessary to spend a £100 a week on groceries? Can you reduce it to £80? And then £50? Keep re-evaluating your spending and see where you can tighten your money on a monthly basis.

6. Use cash

I never use my card to buy stuff in shops. In fact, I am unable to do so. This is because I have a very basic (free!) bank account that only allows me to take out cash and make online payments. I cannot use a card to pay in shops. I have this account deliberately, since using cash means I have to stick to my intended budgets during my weekly grocery trips.

7. Save on recurring expenses

I spend around £50 a year on my phone bills. I have a ‘pay as you go’ SIM with GiffGaff and their lowest deal per month is £5. As I am mostly in places with Wifi, this data is more than enough for me to make the odd emergency phone call. I also don’t have a recurring contract set up, so will often leave a week or two off if I know I am abroad. Some things you cannot reduce (such as your fixed water bills), but see what recurring bills you can save on. This might be different for everyone. If massive amounts of roaming data are useful to you, then keep it. I value sustainable energy, so I have a slightly more expensive energy bills.

These are some of my tips for saving money. Having a healthy savings account is useful for all sorts of reasons. It is great as an emergency fund, deposit for the future (I’ve heard kids are expensive) or reaching goals of an early retirement. As a true savings geek, I would love to know if you have any more tips for saving money.