I’m back…

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Teeny Tiny Break

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Things are a little crazy around here, so I’m taking a little break, but promise to be back in the next couple of days! Take care of yourselves!

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French Onion Soup, Chicago, Snogging.. AND ALL THAT JAZZ!

My eating habits are all over the place – by that I mean I don’t sit down for proper meals, mostly I just graze, and make one or two proper meals. Wednesday’s offering was French Onion Soup. Can you tell I’m on a soup kick?

The cheesy croutons turned out as soggy ugly looking lumps, although the taste was pretty good. I should’ve used crunchier bread to start with. All-in-all it was definitely edible, with 1.5 large onions counting towards my 5-a-day! I think I should’ve caramelised them a bit longer for a richer taste.

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And appearance-wise… let’s face it, it’s never gonna win the soup beauty pageant is it?!

I didn’t get around to fixing my bike, as my exercise plan said I should!  After Monday’s ankle escapades and the epic walk, I’ve been taking it easy. Probably too easy, but I did go for a 5km walk around central London, taking in the sights of Theatreland.

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And the reason for my stroll around the West End? The highlight of the day – seeing Chicago at The Cambridge Theatre! I enjoyed it far more than I was expecting – I’ve only seen the movie, and it didn’t really do it for me. The proper performance had so much more character, and of course the musical numbers are always better live. It was more humorous than I was expecting too, and a giggle or six helps. I went with the girls from choir who I haven’t seen in a while, and it was just what I needed. A bit of socialising, a bit of shimmying down the street afterwards, and a declaration that we should all just wear lingerie all the time from now on! ;)

The girls all have exams looming and had to dash home, but I wanted to go back and take a photo of the theatre for the blog, because I’m a giant geek like that! On the way, I had myself a little late-night SNOG ;)

Haha, no, it’s not what you think…

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That said, the guy who served me was rather hawt. I wouldn’t have said no! 

We had a long chat about all the new flavours and toppings they’ve introduced since I last stopped by, and I’ve honest-to-God never found a man so interested in healthy food! He kept giving me samples of things to try, all the new flavours, their new all-natural chocolate chips, the red bean paste. He said he thinks it tastes like peanut butter, so we just casually talked nut butters for a while. As you do at 11pm on Wednesday evening. ;) He humoured me taking photos but declined to be in one himself, getting all bashful and camera shy. Aww. You’ll just have to imagine a tall, lean, slightly-emo-haired guy with a wicked smile and a passion for fro-yo. (The chances of him being straight are dwindling with each word I type, right?) Oh, and that’s the Spiced Apple yoghurt with raspberries. :D

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ANYWAY. Cold shower time.

This post gives rise to plenty of questions I could ask you guys, doesn’t it? Pick your favourite!

What’s your favourite musical/theatrical performance?

Do you ever have moments when you parade around in lingerie for the hell of it? (I do…)

What flavour fro-yo do you go for? And what toppings?

Have you ever tried red bean paste, and how would you describe it?

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Rude Health Multigrain Thins Review + Croatia and Pancakes!

More gorgeous sunshine today! One of my absolute favourite things is waking up to sunshine pouring through my curtains. As curtains, the IKEA ones that came with my bedroom completely fail. They don’t keep light out. But on a morning like this, it’s totally worth it! I like nothing better than to laze in bed, half-asleep in the sunny warmth, knowing that when I get up I’ll be greeted with a beautiful day ahead. :) Awww.

Unfortunately, lazing around has it’s downsides, like forgetting about a doctor’s appointment. I had to haul ass out of bed and run to campus on my still-ouchie ankle. I arrived all sweaty and unshowered: ewww. My GP was running late too so luckily I had a bit of time to cool down before I saw her. I’ve switched meds because the last lot weren’t making very much difference and I’m kind of on a deadline – I need to be in a mentally fit state to return to uni by July(ish) so I’m cleared for a September start. If I’m not… well, I don’t like to think about that!!

I just typed out a paragraph explaining what it’s like having all this time off to myself. How most people would think it’s great to not work and do as they please, but in reality – for me at least – it’s different and almost depressing in it’s own right. It turned in to a bit of a whine, so instead I deleted it and had a quick online search for a part-time job. I found a position that sounds PERFECT, and knocked off an e-mail application with my CV. It’s better to be pro-active than mooch, right? I don’t want to jinx it so I won’t go into detail unless I get the job! Cross your fingers and toes for me please? ;)

So where was I? Yes, the running. And the meds. My day was quite simple after that – I came home, ate (tried out the Rude Health Multigrain Thins, check out the review below)and then did something very out of character! I got it into my head that I wanted to see 30 Seconds To Mars play another gig. Ant took me to see them at the O2 back in November and it was a really energetic performance. So I looked to see where they might be playing, and discovered they are doing a one-day festival in Croatia in June. Very spur of the moment, but I decided to go!

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The flights are booked, I’ve researched the city (Zagreb) and hopefully roped in a couple of people to share the experience with. This is SO COOL! I don’t often make spontaneous holiday plans, but why the hell not?! Have you ever gone abroad on the spur of the moment?

With all the jumping around and planning adventures, I nearly forgot that it was PANCAKE DAY! Allin and decided that pancakes for breakfast were a cop-out because they’re not exactly a rare occurrence round here, so we had them in the evening. Savoury pancakes have never really been my thing, so dinner was a duplicate of yesterday’s black bean burgers and pancakes were dessert! We made thinner crepe style pancakes, topped simply with sugar & lemon juice (pancake purists, we are). My flipping attempts were successful (I’ve always been a natural tosser ;)) but Dinosaurs… not so much!

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And now, without further ado – A REVIEW!

(Oh rhyme, how  you amuse me!)

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In the spotlight: RUDE HEALTH MULTIGRAIN THINS!

In the shop…

The blurb on the box tells us that these are:

    Organic puffed corn, rice, buckwheat, quinoa, millet & sea salt snacks. No artificial anythings.

    Thinnish. Roundish. Moreish.
    Amazing. You take five organic grains from small organic farms. You puff ‘em up and then you round ‘em off with a little sea salt. The result is a delightfully sophisticated snack, the perfect foil for canapés among special friends. Or possible just for snaffling on your own, with the least pang of guilt.

I got them from Waitrose for £1.49.

In the box….

So firstly, appearance, because sometimes we can’t help but judge a snack by it’s packaging! These come in a simple card box with an inner plastic film bag containing the 160g of thins. The outer appearance of the box is of natural brown cardboard with a coloured print including eyecatching orange branding and some happy looking people on pogo-sticks! There is no info on the box about the materials used but the website claims that the cardboard used in their cereal packaging is recycled (guessing/hoping the same applies to these!).

Several of the snacks are visible through windows in the packaging, so you have a good idea of the size. I didn’t count exactly, but 160g is about 20 snacks.

I discovered a drawback when I came to seal the pack – the plastic sleeve that the thins are in is very easy to tear, and I ended up with a large rip down the side necessitating transfer to a little sealable bag. Should you have better luck with the plastic, Rude Health include a little wire tie to seal the plastic and keep the snacks fresh.

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On the plate…

Each one is a closely uniform size and thickness – a similar diameter but half the thickness to most snack cakes available out there. As you can see, they have a variety of distinct looking grains but overall a lot of yellow corn as the most common ingredient. They feel light and dry and actually took more pressure to snap than you might expect.

On their own, they look quite unappetising but the box has suggestions on the back of how to eat them -

“Sophisticated: with mascarpone and chopped figs”
”Rustic: with organic goats cheese and piccalilli”
”Silly: by trying to get whole ones into our mouths unbroken”

Due to lack of ingredients, the only one of the these I tried was the last one… and yes it is possible! ;)

In my mouth…

I opted first to top mine with mashed avocado & garlic. This was a delicious choice and the thins had a really impressive crunch. This was one of the most outstanding features of the snacks – they aren’t overly chewy/cardboardy like many plain rice cakes are. The taste of the snacks is a bit more nutty and wholesome tasting than similar items, but still quite bland if eaten plain. The sea salt is noticeable but not overpowering. I did find that one of them snapped mid-bite, sending avocado down the front of my shirt, but that’s probably an occupational hazard! They were very more-ish and I polished off 3 topped in this way.

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Trying to get a little more creative, I added tomato chutney, lambs lettuce and crumbled cheddar to another thin. The snack remained crunchy, despite the liquid content of the chutney. After 4 of the multigrain thins I was beginning to feel quite sated – a definite selling point as often snacks like this aren’t very satisfying and leave you hungry.

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There is no suggestion of sweeter toppings, but I dipped one in dark chocolate and it was very nice. I imagine any nut butter would also compliment the flavour.

In my tummy…

Nutrition-wise, the box proudly touts benefits: gluten-free, low fat, high fibre, wholegrain and non-GM.

The ingredients are nice and simple: corn, brown rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa and sea salt. Each thin contains 28 calories (373 cal/100g), 6g of complex carbohydrates, 0.6g of protein, 0.1g of fat and 0.5g of fibre. Imagining that you might easily eat 3 or 4 of these in a sitting, the fibre content does start to add up, making these a good wholegrain choice. 4 thins would total 112 calories so they are a good choice if looking for a low calorie snack, if you’re sensible with the toppings.

Overall…

If you’re a fan of rice cakes and similar snacks, these are a great choice. If you’re not, they probably aren’t enough to convert you. However, they are slightly more flavoursome and satisfying. In the grand scheme of snacks, they are very healthy but you have to be mindful of the toppings you add.

GOOD POINTS: good crunchy texture, more filling than your average rice cake, wholegrain & high fibre.

BAD POINTS: packaging tricky to reseal, tendency to break as you bite them, bit expensive in comparison to similar products (but probably worth it).

SPARKLING RATING: 4/5

Has anyone else tried these? Got any good alternative snack recommendations?

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Walk a mile–or eleven–in my shoes. Or my vibrams, if I had a pair.

Monday mornings are the only time you will ever see me voluntarily awake at 5.30am (grudgingly!). I have therapy at 7am, so it’s an early to start to the day. Yesterday was the exception, but only because I overslept. Actually, that makes it sound totally dramatic, when it really wasn’t – I overslept by a whole 20 minutes, so I didn’t miss anything, just had to catch a bus instead of walk!

I was a little bummed that I missed my early morning walk – it’s dark and quiet that time of the morning, and a couple of weeks ago the walk gave rise to some lovely pre-dawn photos of the canal and Limehouse Basin:

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Are you a morning person?

After therapy and a gingerbread latte, my next task was to find some Vibram 5 Fingers to try on for fit before buying a pair. I walked around for aaaages looking for the stockist that the internetz told me was nearby. After wandering in circles for half an hour I consulted Google Maps on my iPhone and found the right place, only to discover they were closed. CLOSED! At 11am on a Monday. Unimpressed!

It did give me a chance to have a look around Spitalfields Market though. It’s rather lovely and I can’t believe I’ve not spent more time looking around, especially given how close I live. I discovered a Montezuma’s chocolate shop and got a bit excited, but it was also closed. There was also a boutique-y cute things-for-your-house shop, wherein I spotted the coolest dish drying rack. We have a drying rack so I had no excuse to buy it, but isn’t it a-freakin’-dorable?! I need this in my life!

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I abandoned The Great Vibram Hunt and decided to treat myself to a new pair of gym pants. Got a bit carried away with the retail therapy and didn’t  have time to get back to the gym for the yoga class.  Oooopsie. But I did get some new clothes. :) Nothing spectacular but 3 out of 5 items were on sale so I couldn’t resist!

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As any girl knows, shopping is hard work, so I stopped by EAT. and had some Smoky Bacon & Lentil soup, which went down a treat. It was such a beautiful sunny day that I wanted to walk home by the river, through Wapping on the Thames Path. The signposting is a bit complicated in places and I got lost… only to emerge by a big Waitrose! :D Not such a bad detour! I got an avocado to go with dinner, and some Montezuma chocolate (I fancied some after gazing through the window of the closed shop) and a box of Rude Health Multigrain Thins. Look out for a review of these tomorrow!

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Perhaps the photo gives it away, I may have nibbled a bit of the Peruvian Sea Salt bar on the way… 

All in all, by the time I got home I’d walked 12.8 km. Then I pretty much turned around and went back out again and ran 2.5km to the gym to make it in time for BOXERCISE! I was totally beat by the end of the class and went looking for a snack while Allin stayed for the Capoeira class. On leaving the gym, I managed to trip down the stairs and twist my ankle! D’oh. Then i realised I’d left my cash at home too, so I mooched around feeling sorry for myself and icing my ankle until the boy was finished his class. The hobble home took my total distance covered to just under 18km! Not feeling so bad about missing yoga now! :P

Dinner was a vegan black bean burger on a toasted wholegrain seeded bun with cheese, mashed avocado, sautéed mushrooms, a hefty slice of tomato and some lambs lettuce. OMG IT WAS INCREDIBLE. Where have these burgers ‘bean’ all my life? ;) I think I almost prefer them to regular beef burgers…. and that is saying A LOT.

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I didn’t follow a recipe but made them as I would normally make beef burgers but using black beans (obviously!) and a chia egg. There were more ingredients and method to the madness so I’ll post a recipe tomorrow (in the meantime, Angela has a recipe here). The combination of accompaniments in the bun:

hot mushrooms, melted cheese + cold avocado, tomato & lettuce = W.I.N.

A burger plus an episode of Friends is highly recommended as a good distraction from the pain of hurt ankle.

I hope your week got off to a good start! Did you get up to anything fun? Oooh, and what are your favourite things to add in with burgers?

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Thai-inspired Creamy Vegetable Chowder.

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A simple yet rich soup based on butternut squash, sweet potato and coconut with ginger, lemongrass and chilli. I just made it for lunch and thought it was about time I put another recipe up!

Makes 2-3 servings.

The base:

  • oil to sauté
  • 100g onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 200g butternut squash, peeled & chopped into small pieces
  • 200g sweet potato, peeled & chopped into small pieces
  • 50g creamed coconut
  • 200mL vegetable stock (or water plus random herbs/spices)
  • 70mL milk (optional)

The spices:

  • tsp of lemongrass paste
  • 1/2 tsp of finely chopped red chilli
  • 2cm piece of ginger, finely chopped

The veggies:

  • oil to stir-fry
  • 2 inch piece of courgette, sliced into thin strips
  • half a red pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • small head of broccoli (approx. the size of the palm of your hand), broken into florets & stem chopped
  • 5 or 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 pieces of baby corn, sliced

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a foolproof recipe. All the measurements are approximate – add more or less liquid according to the desired consistency, more or less spices according to taste, and vary the amount and type of veggies as much as you like! The creamed coconut is easily replaced with coconut milk; as much or as little as required to give a good consistency but 300-400mL should suit the quantities of ingredients stated here and you probably won’t need the extra milk.

 

1. Heat a small glug of oil in a saucepan, then add the garlic and onion. Sauté until it starts to soften and colour.DSC03204

2. Add the sweet potato, butternut squash and vegetable stock (I had no vegetable stock so I added water with some cayenne, a dash of soy sauce and tiny pinch of sesame & citrus spice blend). Turn up the heat to a boil, cook until the potato and squash are soft.DSC03206

3. Remove from the heat and add the creamed coconut (or coconut milk). Stir to dissolve the coconut. Set aside.DSC03209

4. Heat a frying pan with no oil in it. Add the lemongrass paste, chopped ginger and chilli. Allow the spices to become warm and fragrant, stirring so they don’t burn (about 1 min). Tip these into the saucepan with the potato, squash & coconut.

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5. Use a hand/immersion blender to puree the mixture, or just tip it all into a regular blender and blitz smooth. If using coconut cream you may need to add more liquid here – milk, stock or water – but if you’ve used coconut milk to start you may not; use your judgement/intuition here. Err on the side of caution, you can always add more liquid later.

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6. Pop the frying pan back on the heat, with a glug of oil. Add the vegetables in order – broccoli, courgette, baby corn, red pepper & mushrooms. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes and then add to the smooth soup base. Stir through, return to the heat for a couple of moments to ensure it’s piping hot.

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Serve garnished if desired – I used finely sliced raw courgette, red chilli & sliced ginger. Toasted cashew nuts would be great too.

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The finished product should have a silky creamy consistency and a warmly spiced almost satay like flavour – a combination of the nutty flavoured squash and sweet potato combined with the Thai seasonings. Nutritious and delicious!

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Ladies and gentlemen, we now return to scheduled programming…

Dahhlings, dahhhlings… I’ve MISSED you so!

This week my internet connection decided it would rather be a llama. Llamas aren’t very good at technology so I’ve been offline for what feels like forever. In reality it only took a week to decide it made a rubbish llama, and thankfully decided to go back to doing what it does best – delivering me my beloved internet! :) :)

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(source.)

Haha, llamas look so ridiculous in a really cute way. Although I’ve heard they’re pretty grumpy in reality. I think I know a few people who were llamas in a previous life. ;)

OK, ENOUGH WITH THE LLAMA TALK. (Sorry, my friend just came back from touring South America, I have llamas on the brain)

So what have I been shoving in my cake-hole lately?

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Ummm.. CAKE!

Yes! *gleeful* Only the most delicious cake in all the land! Hummingbird cupcakes, as made by Mummy-dearest. It was my birthday last week, and rather than have a big ol’ extravagant cake, I asked if she would make me some of her LEGENDARY Hummingbird cupcakes. They are the most amazing treat – they have carrot, banana, pineapple AND coconut in them. The result is a cupcake that’s could almost be described as juicy, takes like a tropical beach (minus the sand) AND contains fruit and vegetables! Yeah, I know. I can see you drooling!

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I’m in the process of wheedling the recipe out of her so look out for it featuring in future Bakeday escapades.

Back on the subject of animals…. I was out taking some snaps the other day and realised that squirrels, they’re are kind of like rats with fluffier tails? Whaddya reckon?

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Latest discovery: Bailey LOVES oatmeal with chia seeds!

For anyone concerned that the critter has climbed into the crockery and is licking it clean, I assure you everything gets thoroughly disinfected after he’s had his fun. For those of you concerned that there hasn’t been a photo of the oatmeal with chia seeds, this one is for you:

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It’s not just oats & chia – ohhh no! –  it’s oats, chia seeds, rice milk, ginger chunks, glace cherries and cinnamon. And pistachio butter. That I forgot to add before the photo. Just as well really, it looks a bit like crusty pond slime. But I promise it doesn’t taste like crusty pond slime.

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The pistachio butter was from a recent Whole Foods trip. I stocked up on dried stuff from the hoppers – I think it’s so great that you can just get the quantity you need rather than shelling out for huge great bags. I got allsorts. Red carmargue rice, aduki beans, chickpeas, green lentils, black beans & soy mince. I also got some dark maple syrup and some brown rice syrup. Tomorrow I plan to have my first ever bash at making black bean burgers, om nom nom.

Tomorrow I will also be shopping for my birthday gift from my parents – a pair of Vibram Five Fingers! :D I am SO stoked to be getting some. I think I will find running much more enjoyable with Vibrams, and I’m hoping the difference in running style will be good for my joints. Do you have a pair? Have you noticed a difference in your joints/technique/body?

I now have an official gym buddy too. We met at Boxercise last week and I’m excited to have someone to work out with, plus she’s super nice, which always helps ;) Dinosaurs doesn’t count because he’s so ridiculously fit that I just look like an oversized puffing tomato next to him. So expect lots of gym related ramblings this coming week. I’m very happy to be adding more exercise to my life, even though I’ve found it hard to actually get my arse in gear and do it… but I’m gradually finding that I’m enjoying it for the endorphins and exercising for the sake of it, not just because it’s ‘the healthy thing to do’. And lookit, I even have myself an exercise schedule for this week:

Day Activity

Monday

Yoga class
Boxercise class

Tuesday

Core workout
4km run

Wednesday

Fix my bike & just go for a ride!

Thursday

10km walk
Upper body workout

Friday

4km run
Yoga at home

Saturday

Rest

Sunday

Gym cardio workout
 
I also have a goal of blogging EVERY DAY next week. Gotta make up for lost time, right? ;) What I do need is a good work-out playlist… with the exception of screamo and hardcore metal, I’ll listen to anything, so shoot your best tracks at me!
Any suggestions welcome, please!
 
And because I used the phrase ‘cake-hole’ earlier, I can’t get it out of my head. So I ask: what have YOU been shoving in your cake-hole recently? :D
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