Wednesday, 29 January 2014

RECIPE: Skinny peanut butter brownies of dreams

Oh my days. These. Can we all just take a moment. Thanks.

Super squidgy, satisfyingly sweet, slightly salty, seriously scrummy and surprisingly skinny… I am a BIG fan of these peanut butter brownies! The contrast of textures is too good for words and the salty-sweet peanut butter-chocolate combo is such a winner in my books.

What's more, I've calculated that each brownie is under 120 calories! Yes, really! *jaw drops*

When I posted the above picture on Instagram and Facebook, the response that followed was astounding, and I knew I was on to a winner.

They are so moreish, moist and marvellous (wow, my alliteration is on FIRE today!) that it’s really hard to believe these babies aren’t choc-full (aren’t I punny too?) of badness. But they’re not. Allow me to explain why…

  • They contain NO BUTTER OR FLOUR!
  • Ground-up oats do the job of flour and provide slow-release energy. (And you could use gluten-free oats to make these babies GF friendly!)
  • Fat-free yoghurt keeps the brownies beautifully moist without the need for butter.
  • Egg-whites are a great source of protein and you don’t need the yolk which contains the high fat and cholesterol.
  • Peanut butter is an energy-boosting ‘good’ fat.
  • Using low-fat versions of everything keeps the calories down (but it’s not the end of the world if you only have regular versions of the ingredients.)
  • Using cocoa powder in brownies gives a great chocolatey flavour and is much better for you than melted chocolate

They’re so soft and squidgy that these brownies are almost like fudge really, and who doesn’t love peanut butter chocolate fudge? I know I do. It just makes it even more amazing that these brownies are completely free from butter or oil. Say WHAAAT?!

Oh gosh! And I haven't even told you how quick and easy they are to make! Seriously beyond simple. All you need is a blender (I used a hand one but it doesn't matter.) This is totally one of my top recipes EVER!

I suppose the one slightly less healthy ingredient is the sugar, but when you divide that up into eight brownies it’s not so bad really.

As the brownies don’t contain loads of flour, you’re not left feeling bloated or stodgy after eating one, and because they’re so rich, you genuinely feel satisfied after a small-ish square (that’s not to say I couldn’t eat them all in one go though…)

This recipe is adapted from my skinny peanut butter swirl brownie cupcakes, which are also rather wonderful if I do say so myself. But these brownies are even better because they've got peanut butter in the chocolate mix too.

I actually made mine in a loaf tin measuring 20x11cm and I cut it into eight delicious brownies.


100g natural fat free yoghurt
50g skimmed milk
1 egg white
A pinch of salt
½ tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
40g cocoa powder
30g oats
2 tbsp low-fat peanut butter


1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a loaf tin measuring 20x11cm.

2. Measure out all the ingredients into a blender, keeping behind one tbsp of the peanut butter and starting with the liquid ingredients for easier blending. Blend until you have a smooth, runny mixture and all the oats are ground up. Pour into your tin.

3. Melt the last spoonful of peanut butter until warm and runny, then drizzle over the brownie mix. (FYI, melted peanut butter is delish.) Give the mix a bit of a swirl if ya fancy and make sure every piece will get a decent amount of PB goodness. 

Pop in the oven for around 25 minutes - when done, a skewer inserted into the middle should come out just about clean (but a bit of moistness is good as we don't want dry brownies!)

4. Go round the edge of the tin with a knife then leave to cool fully. I was very impatient so opened the window wide, placed my tin on the window-sill, and let the fresh snowy air waft in and speed up the cooling process. Once cool, cut into squares and enjoy GUILT-FREE! Yuuuuuuuuum!

Hope you enjoy them, lovelies!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A weekend in Salzburg: Sightseeing, Snow, Schnitzel, Strudel and The Sound of Music.

Salzburg is a city famous for two musical greats: that old guy, Mozart (you may have heard of him?) and that cracking film, The Sound of Music. Now, as four British girls in their early 20s, I probably don’t need to tell you about which we were more excited. (Sorry, Mozy.)

Yup, as well as being the fourth biggest city in Austria and a UNESCO World Heritage site, this beautiful Alpine city was the setting for Maria and the Von Trapp family’s curtain-wearing adventures. (And we were all very excited about it!)

I love that you can always see the Alps around you.
As Salzburg is only just out of Bavaria, it’s included the Deutsche Bahn’s ‘Bayern Ticket’ deal – 22 Euros for one person to travel round Bavaria (and Salzburg) as much and as far as you like in one day, and five Euros more for each extra person. We LOVE the Bayern Tickets, as when you’re travelling in a group and have a long way to go (Bavaria is HUUUUGE!), you get such a cheap deal.

So, last Friday morning, along with my lovely friends Emily, Charlotte and Aimee, I set off for Salzburg. Almost six hours later and we’d arrived in Salt Fortress. (Yeah, sounds better not translated, doesn’t it?)

Unsurprisingly, I had written a document containing all the useful info we might need over the course of the weekend, including directions for the supposedly five minute walk from the station to the hostel.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t as easy as it had seemed online, and about 45 minutes of walking round in the snow later, we still hadn’t found the hostel. It transpired that we’d merely made a teeny error in leaving the station from the wrong exit, but after asking for directions from three different people (and receiving wrong directions twice), we eventually found our base for the weekend: Yoho hostel, which I reviewed here.

After a cup of tea (naturally) and a spot of free wifi-usage, we wrapped up warm, braved the elements and headed off for an evening wander round the city. As day turned to night, it was really all rather pretty.

We unintentionally found both Mozart’s birthplace and his later house, crossed the river into the heart of the old town, and took a stroll down the beautiful main shopping street, Getreidegasse, popping into the odd shop as we went. Seriously, on this street, even Claire’s Accessories and McDonalds looked classy. Amazing.

Mozart's Birthplace. Above a Spar supermarket. Lolz.
We couldn’t stay out exploring the city for too long though, heaven forbid we should miss the daily hostel screening of The Sound of Music at 7pm! We picked up a veritable feast from a supermarket en route, and headed back to the hostel for a picnic-fuelled film-viewing.

As we nibbled on paprika Pom Bears (um, AWESOME), sipped Prosecco from teacups (because we’re classy girls) and sang along to the wonderful tunes, we realised there’s a lot more to The Sound of Music than you appreciate as a child. Actually knowing about the history behind the film and understanding what was happening at the time makes it even more interesting.

Feeling sufficiently uplifted and motivated to climb ev’ry mountain thanks to the successful escape of the Von Trapps from the Nazis, we gals headed off to the recommended cocktail bar just a few minutes from the hostel. Supposedly home to Salzburg’s best cocktails, we were excited to visit Havana. Although not cheap, the cocktails most definitely did not disappoint. We decided to go back the next day during Happy Hour. Because we’re poor. And we like cocktails.

The next morning, fuelled up from a huge breakfast, we set off to explore Salzburg properly and pow out as many of the sights as possible. First up, we wandered down the cute street, Linzergasse, full of little shops, enticing-looking eateries and St. Sebastian Church. We then moseyed down an extremely cute tiny cobbled street called Steingasse, which gave us a wonderful view out over the river.

And over the Salzach river we went into the old town – through the pretty Rathausplatz, the Altermarkt, Residenzplatz and round to the cathedral, all to the soundtrack of a great street harpist. Salzburg definitely has a different style of buildings to the Bavarian ones we’re used to, despite being so close to the border with Germany. Austrian architecture seems to be so grand and opulent.

Charlotte and I outside the cathedral

I insisted we pop into the Manner shop (Manner are the most delicious Austrian hazelnut wafers and I LOVE THEM) and was in veritable heaven there. I’m a big fan of the packaging too.

Having resisted filling my bag with Manners we walked past the sweet horse-drawn carriages and couldn’t help being drawn into Salzburg’s oldest bakery by the incredible smell wafting out.

Next up, it was time to climb the mountain (CLIIIIMB EEEEV’RY MOUNTAAAAIIIN!) up to the castle, and at this point, the snow was really coming down thick and fast. As we tried our best to manage the winding cobbled streets in the snow without falling over, we kept having to stop to admire the beautiful views down over the city. (Definitely not because we were out of breath. Ahem.)

Once at the top, we discovered it was 8 Euros to get into the castle. Bums, we thought. Oh, but there’s free wifi, I see. Never mind, we’ll do a Facebook check-in and leave it at that. So, selfie taken, check-in successful, we carried on our snowy walk along the mountain top.

It was like Narnia, and we really were walking in a winter wonderland. Naturally, we stopped to try and catch snowflakes on our tongues, and they really were staying on our noses and eyelashes! I totally get why that was one of Maria’s fave things.

We carried on walking round to Mönchsberg where we stumbled upon the most wonderful view…

Before moseying back down into the city.

After a hot choc and a warm-up, we carried on our exploration, trying all the free tasters at the market and making our way to Mirabell Palace and gardens: where Do-Re-Mi was filmed! *squeal*

Later that afternoon, we decided to treat ourselves to a traditional Austrian meal in a traditional Austrian restaurant: Wilder Mann. Naturally, we went for Schnitzel. And large portions of Schnitzel they were! Girls vs Food. (The girls won.)

Sufficiently full, we went back to the hostel for tea and a little chill pre our impending night out. Yup, it was back to Havana – our new fave haunt – for Happy Hour cocktails!

Oooh, they were yummy! But the night was only going to get better. Why’s that? You ask? Well, thanks to my pre-trip research, we’d found out there was going to be a traditional Tracht (Dirndl and Lederhosen) night at a club just round the corner from the hostel, and we’d all brought our Dirndls especially.

Not having tried mine on since Oktoberfest months ago, I was slightly concerned it would no longer fit, but after managing to squeeze myself back in, I was pretty excited.

So, Saturday night was spent at Die Weisse. And it was hilarious.

EVERYONE there was in Dirndls and Lederhosen, and despite the fact that it was snowing outside, we four were the only ones wearing tights. Those Austrians are hardcore.

Having read that entry was free, I was already keen as I hate extortionate club entry fees. Even better, it turned out that Die Weisse was sort of a restaurant slash pub slash club in one, with different sections for each. And in the club section, for example, you wouldn’t even know there was a restaurant bit just round the corner.

We managed to score ourselves a free pretzel, make friends with the official photographer (resulting in our photos all over facebook), make good friends with an Austrian man on the part of one of us (I shall name no names!), dance, sing and even play the piano. Sure, we spent some time in the club section, but we definitely had more fun in the pub section with the traditional Austrian band.

Showing off my 'skills' (I have no skills.)
We danced between the tables, attempted to understand Austrian German, and Charlotte even had a blow on a man’s trumpet! (Not a euphemism, you smutty minded people.) As far as I’m concerned, Dirndl dancing with your friends in a pub is far preferable to bodily contact with sweaty randomers in a club.

The next morning we indulged in another big ole breakfast and laughed yet more about the antics of the previous night. As Charlotte and Aimee were getting an earlier train home, Emily and I said So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye to them, before heading an off for a final couple of hours exploring Salzburg.

We walked up yet another big snowy hill to find the Kapuziner Monastery which also gave us yet another wonderful view over the snowy rooftops of Salzburg.

What's more, we saw an actual nun and an actual monk, who unintentionally treated Emily and I to something of a private organ concert inside the church. It was lovely.

As we strolled along the river admiring the huge, beautiful houses that line it, Emily and I embraced the clear, fresh mountain air. We explored side streets and peered into shop windows, and the last thing on our Salzburg to-do list? Try some traditional Austrian apple strudel. We weren't hungry, but simply felt we couldn't leave the city without having had a little bit.

'Time for enjoyment.' I like this.
We popped into a very cute café called Café Würfel Zucker and promptly ordered a warm Apfelstrudel to share. It perhaps could've been a little crisper, but it was full of delicious apple and juicy sultanas and yummy all the same.

And then it was time for a long, sleepy train journey home. Well, four train journeys to be precise, but it was all worth it for a super fun, lovely, interesting and beautiful girly weekend in Salzburg.

Sound of Music checklist:

  • Warm woolen mittens
  • Cream coloured ponies
  • Crisp (ish) apple strudels
  • Schnitzel with noodles (well, with potatoes, but it'd be weird with noodles quite frankly)
  • Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
  • Silver white winters ( soon to melt into springs)

I think we did pretty well!

I loved Salzburg, and would definitely go back - I'd LOVE to see it in summer! Have you ever been?

Monday, 27 January 2014

REVIEW: Yoho Hostel, Salzburg

Last weekend's travels took me and three girlfriends out of Germany (only just!) to the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg. Now, before I hit you all with a big ole post of our weekend antics - and trust me, ya don't wanna miss it - allow me to share a review of the hostel in which we stayed for our two nights in the city of The Sound of Music and Mozart: Yoho Hostel.

For the sake of easy reading, I shall take the liberty of indulging my inner organisational freak and divide my review into pros and cons (but don't worry, I'm not going to go so far as to alphabetise them. That would just be weird GAAAD who does that? Ahem.)

So, here we go!

The showers


  • Location: Situated in between the station and the main city centre, about five to ten minutes walk to each, Yoho really is fabulously located in Salzburg. It's also five minutes from both our fave new cocktail bar and the awesome traditional Austrian club (yes, really... I'll explain more in my post about the trip!) which we may have frequented... Supermarket and corner shop both nearby too. Jolly convenient.
  • Friendly staff: Irrelevant to us as we are all totes fluent German speakers (ish), but they all spoke English too. The reception was open all night, and you could check-in from 11am which is very handy.
  • Nice interior and rooms: The hostel was clean, it had a cool bar, there are posters of pretty Salzburg sights round the corridors and our room was fine - not overly exciting but all we needed. I like that they do small dorms too: as a group of four we had a room to ourselves - a double bunk bed (weird but kinda cool), a wardrobe, wash-basin with mirror, table and two chairs. Oh, and the beds had proper duvets and were comfy!
  • Good and free wifi: Absolute essential for me!
  • Good and cheap breakfast: We weren't planning on having the hostel breakfast both mornings, but after enjoying it on our first day, we realised we'd be fools not to do so again. It's 3,50 Euros (cheap compared to a lot of hostels!) and is a buffet (GET IN!) of cereals, yoghurt, fruit, toast, bread rolls, hams, cheese and lots of different spreads, as well as unlimited teas, coffees, fruit juices and water. You may think I'm strange for including water in the list but it is IMPOSSIBLE to get free water ANYWHERE so it was a bit of a treat at breakfast. We filled ourselves up so well we then managed to keep going until early dinner time, thus saving lunch money HOORAH!
  • Yoho has a free luggage storage room.
  • KITCHENS! I've stayed in many a hostel where there are no facilities to prepare your own food. Brilliantly, Yoho provides a big fridge, microwave and kettles for its guests, as well as cutlery and crockery - obviously we brought our own teabags and made the most of the facilities.
  • The Sound of Music screening: Every night. 7pm. Amazing. (We loved it!)
  • Happy hour: At Yoho bar from 6-7pm and 10-11pm with nice cheap drinks for the taking.
  • Good showers: The idea of shared showers and loos is not one I instinctively love, but they were really good at Yoho. The showers were clean, nice and powerful. There was never a queue (although this was in January and thus not exactly peak time), and there were hairdryers provided too. Pleasing.
  • Free useful map: Yoho offer their own map of the city which we found really handy - they point out their favourite haunts, the main attractions, and show three different walking tour routes to see the best of Salzburg. Despite going through about five maps over the weekend thanks to the snow and rain turning them to mush, it was really useful.
  • A good price: We paid 37,50 Euros each for two nights, which may not make Yoho the cheapest hostel in which I've ever stayed, but I still think it's not bad at all.
Nice clean corridors

  • The curtains: When drawn, in our room they covered about half the window. To be fair, I'm being picky and this wasn't too much of a problem what with it being January, but I imagine in the summer it would be more annoying when the light comes streaming in at 5am.
  • Not enough toilets: Again, I'm being fussy, but we could've perhaps done with a few more and it would've been nice if they were gender-segregated.
  • Only one socket in our room: There were four of us, each with phones to charge, yet only one electric socket. Not the best.
  • Check-out is at 10am: Again not too much of an issue, but should you be wanting to lie in after a long Dirndl-wearing night out (just us?) you alas shan't be able to. 

And there you have it! As you can see from the length of each section, I'd really recommend Yoho hostel - the negatives are really only very minor things and the positives are much more important. I think it's great when a hostel has a nice atmosphere which encourages its guests to chat, and that's exactly what we had at Yoho. It was just what we needed for our weekend in Salzburg!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

My Cosmo article: Six reasons why living abroad for a year is the best thing ever.


Um... yes. Sorry for shouting. 

Anyway, here it is:

As I stared out of the plane window at the not-so-patchwork fields of Germany, I tried my hardest to hold back the tears, but alas (much to the amusement of the businessmen beside me), I couldn’t stop a few cheeky tears escaping. It was actually happening. I was moving to Germany. For real. Not just for a holiday but to live actual life there. And it was all just a little overwhelming, hence my eyes leaking.

That was nearly five months ago and I haven’t cried since. Well except for when I watched Marley and Me, but c’mon, I’m only human and that is one cute dog.

The point is, moving to Germany wasn’t nearly as scary or hard as I’d imagined before leaving. Sure, I miss crumbles, baked beans – not together, mind – and proper tea (oh, and my family, obvs) but apart from that, it’s all been, well, awesome.

Of course, there are the obvious pros of starting a new life abroad like meeting new people, learning a language and broadening your horizons, but we’ve all heard that before now, haven’t we? However, I’ve discovered a few other reasons why moving abroad is a simply marvellous thing to do.

1.     You’re the foreign one 

Pretending to be German at Oktoberfest (read my blog about it here)
You know how when you go to a party and the guys are all ogling your friend’s hot cousin who’s just come over from France? Well, when you’re the foreigner abroad, you get to be that interesting, different one. But I can’t promise you’ll automatically develop French femme fatale seductiveness by moving abroad. Sorry.

But whether you’re on the train, in a shop or at a party, people take just a little bit more notice, because you’re foreign. And that’s quite cool. It’s fun to feel special, unique, and – dare I say it? – exciting, even if people are only trying to listen in to practice their English. (They usually are.)

2.     Discovering new culinary delights

Embracing the local delicacies
Let’s face it, baked beans are always going to be there when you go back home, and as wonderful as British cuisine is (the Germans weren’t so convinced when I tried to explain the awesomeness of fish and chips), it turns out there’s a lot more food to be eaten and drinks to be drunk outside our green and pleasant land.

Ever heard of Maultasche, Spätzle or Federweißer? Nope, didn’t think so (unless you’ve been reading my blog, you lovely person - I wrote a post all about lovely German cuisine here.) They are all incredibly delicious German delicacies. I am choosing to ignore the fact that I ripped a pair of my favourite skinnies while crouching down a few weeks ago. Completely unrelated to all the stodgy-but-scrummy German food I’m consuming. Ahem.

3.     You get to be a tourist and a local at the same time

Discovering Coburg - here's my blog about it!
Doing a year abroad is a funny (but awesome) thing – you feel a bit like you’re on holiday, whilst simultaneously settling into a new home. I love the fact that I feel like I know my town well now and I bump into someone I know nearly every time I go out, but at the same time, I have something of a holiday mind-set. Some might even say ‘YOLO’ (or in my case, ‘YOIBO’ – You’re Only In Bavaria Once. Catchy, I know.)

When you know you’re only in a country for a matter of months and it’s not really real life, you just want to make the most of every opportunity, say yes to everything (within reason), travel everywhere and yes, eat everything. My justification? It’s German. I’m embracing the culture.

4.     Going home feels extra special

Christmas abroad is great but... (this is Prague and here's my blog about it!)
I tell you what, as much fun as I’m having abroad, going home for Christmas was absolutely delightful. I didn’t particularly want to leave Germany, but I was definitely looking forward to my home comforts – being here has made me realise all the teeny tiny things I miss about living in the UK. And I’m not just talking about food, honest (although a mince pie binge obviously occurred – who knew they were a purely British thing? Tragic.)

Going home to see your family at Christmas is always lovely, whether from work, uni or school, but when you’ve been living abroad, it is super duper special. Red post boxes, shops open on Sundays, Union Jack bunting, the Royal Family, One Direction, Cadbury’s, Topshop, family, friends, pets… How I miss you so!

5.     Everything’s interesting because it’s new

A FOOT of sausage!? Well, when in Germany...
Visiting a new country is always fascinating, purely because everything (well, nearly everything) is different to what you know. Even the most mundane things that you wouldn’t give a second thought to at home (exciting trip to the supermarket, anyone?) are a million times more interesting abroad. I for one like to think foreigners to the UK would be just as fascinated by a trip to Marks & Sparks – heck, an M&S trip is an exciting outing for me too!

The novelty of experiencing strange German traditions definitely hasn’t worn off, and every day I discover something new. Sure, the locals may think I’m slightly batty for showing so much enthusiasm towards their daily habits, but it’s better than showing no interest at all. No, they definitely think I’m an eccentric British nutter, but that may be more down to my onesie and collection of Christmas jumpers…

6.     You learn SO MUCH

Heidelberg - blog about it here!
When you move abroad, you automatically learn about a new culture, other people and languages without even trying, but mainly, living in another country pushes you out of your comfort zone and teaches you about yourself. Everyone says it, and it may be a little cringey, but it’s true.

And there it is! I think it looks much better on Cosmo and I'd love it if you had a little lookie... Here it is! (Just to prove I'm not making this up. As IF I'd ever lie to you, lovely readers!)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Handbags and Cupcakes. All rights reserved.