Tuesday, 27 January 2015

RECIPE: Healthy veggie-fried quinoa.


I am so into quinoa right now. Sure, I’ve enjoyed it for a while, but my feelings have developed. Right now quinoa and I are having a little bit of a love affair. Specifically, it’s this quinoa and bulgar wheat mix from Waitrose which is really doing things for me.

And my best quinoa concoction of late? This.


You know the delicious but awfully unhealthy veggie- or egg-fried rice you get from Chinese takeaways? Well this fabulous dish has got all those vibes going on but is ludicrously good for you. 

Aww man, it’s so super tasty! The coconut oil, garlic and tamari all marry together to make the most wonderful flavour combo, and then you’ve got your fluffy quinoa, crunchy cashews, plump sultanas and an array of textures thanks to the abundance of veggies. So colourful too!



It’s such a comforting dish yet without the stodge-factor – perf for supper on the sofa in your onesie. I laaaaave it!


Did I mention it’s also stupidly simple to make? Cos it is. One pan, people!

I'm in the habit of cooking a big batch of quinoa (I like to cook mine in stock with Marmite dissolved in for tastiness) and then using it over the week. Perhaps stuffed into baked peppers, served with a curry, or as part of a salad. Mmmmm...


Quinoa is packed with protein and is technically a pseudograin, if you were wondering. It's totally gluten-free and there's a reason everyone went nuts for it during 2014. It's awesome!

Oh, and tamari is a new discovery of mine. It's basically a gluten and yeast free alternative to soy sauce and is super tasty.


This serves two but it'd be super easy to increase the quantity. To be honest, quantities are pretty fluid anyway. Just improv with whatever you have and enjoy!


Ingredients

1 tbsp coconut oil (or sub cooking oil of your choice)
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced or mashed
1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
1/2 courgette, chopped into small pieces
5(ish) broccoli florets, sliced into thin pieces
1 tbsp sweetcorn
1 tbsp sultanas
2 cups cooked quinoa/bulgar wheat (I cook mine in stock and Marmite!)
1 tbsp unsalted cashews
1 tbsp tamari (or sub soy sauce)


Method

1. Soak the sultanas in warm water. Melt the coconut oil in a large frying pan and chop up all your veggies.

2. Fry onion and garlic on a medium heat until softening. Turn the heat up and add the pepper, courgette and broccoli. Stir-fry for a few minutes, adding a splash of water here and there until everything is just about cooked enough.


3. Add the cashews, sweetcorn, sultanas and quinoa and turn the heat down. Add the tamari and stir it all around for a bit to make sure everything is evenly heated through. Serve right away or save for a lovely packed lunch.


Are you a quinoa fan?

Saturday, 24 January 2015

An ode to The Parent Trap and 7 questions I want answering...



I don't think there's a film I know better than The Parent Trap. And I'm talking about the Lindsay Lohan version, of course.

Just ask my sister. She can vouch for the fact that I know a good 90% of the script of by heart (and thus watching it with me can in fact be a slightly annoying experience, even when I try and restrain myself from quoting along... Soz, Shrimp.)

Every time someone says "It's fate", I follow up with this in my head. OK, sometimes out loud:



Can you believe the film came out in 1998? The year I turned SIX!? I actually remember going to the cinema to see it. And then we got the video - something today's kids will never know, alas - and I watched it over and over and over again. I still do. Every time I go home. Yup, on our old video player (the Hosies are a bit retro like that.)

Fuzzy quality aside, I still love that film to pieces. I think there's something about childhood faves that make them stick in your memory so strongly. And I guess when you're little your sponge-like brain just absorbs and remembers things so easily. If I was doing a degree in The Parent Trap I feel pretty confident I'd get a first. Parent Trap or Facebook stalking, they're probably my specialist subjects.



I couldn't resist taking Buzzfeed's How Well Do You Know “The Parent Trap?” quiz. Not ashamed to admit I got 19 out of 20, because really, you have to be a psycho die-hard fan to know how many times the word "actually" is said or sung in the film. (Take the quiz and let me know how you do!)

It wasn't till my early teens that I discovered it was one actor, the little-known Lindsay Lohan, playing both twins. My mind was blown. Even when I watch it now I marvel at how slickly the shots with both twins are done.

I'm of the opinion The Parent Trap is Li-Lo's finest film performance to date.

And I know I'm not alone in my love for this film - it's cult viewing for a generation of girls, much like Mean Girls later on too. (Oh hey there Li-Lo again.)



When the late Natasha Richardson died I was at secondary school, and we all mourned the tragic loss of 'Parent Trap mum', which she will always be for us. Weren't Liz and Nick just the best parents?

And who didn't want an identical twin as a result of watching the film?

I love the soundtrack too. Every time I hear 'Hear comes the sun' I think of 'Annie' twinkling the hanging glass thingy in her mum's bedroom and the two of them walking through London.

When home over Christmas, I obviously watched Parent Trap again. But this time, with a slightly more critical eye. I'm not sure why.

My eyebrows occasionally raised and I found myself spotting a few things that don't quite add up...



1. If the twins meet at Camp Walden ("for girls") 11 years and nine months after their parents got married, camp is in the summer and they'll be 12 on October 11th, Liz must've been about to give birth (to two girls that were "6 lbs, 11 oz, 21 inches long") when she got married. And she definitely doesn't look preggers in the wedding picture...




2. Where does Martin go when 'Annie' arrives back from camp? They pull up at the house in the taxi, we see Martin get out, but then 'Annie' goes into 7 Pembroke Lane alone...




3. When walking home with 'Annie' after the dress-fitting in her studio, why does Lizzie ("or does everyone call [her] Liz now?) just pick up a paper from a newspaper rack outside a shop without paying ?




4. When 'Hallie' meets Meredith by the pool at home, Nick says he's going in for champagne and chilli (real Hallie's fave food, with cornbread) but doesn't come back with chilli, just "a bottle of [his] special reserve label".




5. After 'Annie' honours the old camp tradition of talking to your friend ("Mildred") from inside a closet, she crawls out to find her mum, grandfather and Martin standing right outside the door. Surely they would have heard what she was saying, and that she was speaking in an American accent?




6. If camp is eight weeks long how do the twins have long enough holidays for that and time at home AND a camping trip ("What camping trip? The one we take every summer before school starts")?




7. How rich must the family be to casually miss three flights from San Francisco to London to stay in California and go on the camping trip? Nick tells the girls this isn't funny and they're going to make their mother miss her flight. But wouldn't most people be like, "Um, no, daughters, we've paid a lot of money for three flights back to London, which were very expensive as we booked them at the last minute in the first place. Ergo, we're going."?


If anyone can shed any light on these pressing issues or has any to contribute please do let me know. I don't mean to pick holes in the film. As you can probably tell, I am a HUUUUGE fan. I think it's a brilliant beyond brilliant film. Do you?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

RECIPE: Healthy two-ingredient almond butter cups.


I was despairing. The essay I'd been set had driven me to tears. Yes, really. Degrees ain't easy, kids.

And what do I automatically look to for comfort in times of despair? You guessed it: chocolate and tea.

The essay meant I didn't even have painted nails... I KNOW!
But I'm not meant to be eating dairy or sugar as part of my Honestly Healthy lifestyle, hmm...

Challenge accepted.


And these, my dears, these dreamy healthy versions of my beloved peanut butter cups, are what I concocted.


They are goooood!

Being in the midst of essay distress I didn't have hours to spend making comforting treats, so with just two ingredients these simple babies were perf.

I'd seen similar things in recipe books and online, but they all seemed to have a displeasingly long ingredient list. Not my almond butter cups.


I wasn't sure if my concoction would work, but it did. And I am blimmin' pleased.

The gorgeous cacao hits your chocolate craving, and the subtle sweetness marries perfectly with the slightly salty almond butter. I used these cacao drops (found in Waitrose):


The texture contrast is pretty dreamy too.


I think I’m going to try them with cashew and hazelnut butters too. Oh alright, and I’ll probably do them with peanut butter too even if it is acid-forming. Because HELLO, peanut butter plus chocolate is pretty much the ultimate.


This makes six almond butter cups. Who knew something so great could come out of despair?


Ingredients

About 2 tbsp cacao drops (or use dark chocolate)
About 2 tbsp almond butter (or nut butter of your choice)


Method

1. Pop six mini cake cases into a mini cake tin and gently melt the cacao either in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water.

2. Remove from the heat and drop a teaspoonful of velvety smooth melted cacao into each paper case. Carefully spread across the bottom and halfway up the sides.


Pop the tray into the freezer to set for about 8-10 minutes.

3. Remove from the freezer and carefully spread a teaspoonful of almond butter into each cup.


Top each with another teaspoonful of melted cacao, making sure it's spread right to the edges.


4. Pop the tray back in the freezer for another 8-10 minutes until set. If they're not devoured instantly, keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

RECIPE: All-natural awesome energy bars


I didn't mean to make these. But boy, am I glad I did.

I was looking around the pantry shelves thinking I'd make some sort of no-bake energy balls. But then I just made it up as I went along and created these babies.



Mmmmmmmm.

They're like the healthiest chocolate-topped flapjacks you could ever imagine.

But never mind that, they're so damn tasty!


They're squidgy and crunchy and there are so many different textures going on. You get a different sensation with every bite.

Sweet from the agave and slightly salty from the nut butter, with a chocolatey topping that makes them taste indulgent.




You know how sea-salted dark chocolate is all the rage these days? Well you get that gorgeous flavour with these bars.

Get this. These energy bars are:

  • Vegan
  • Wheat-free
  • Refined sugar-free
  • Dairy-free
  • All-natural

In an effort to stick to my new alkaline lifestyle I've been trying to replace peanut butter with other nut butters. They're jolly tasty, but haven't quite taken the place of PB in my heart yet. I like Meridian as they're literally just nuts. 100%.


So, in these bars I used all three nut butters but by all means use whatever you have.

I also used these cacao drops for the topping (which I found in Waitrose):




These bars are the perfect afternoon pick-me-up: they're energising but will also cure your sugar craving.

I LOVE them, and they'll leave you feeling fantastic.

Couldn't resist one before the cacao had set

This makes 12 bars. Feel free to switch up the dried fruits, seeds and nut butters you use!


Ingredients

1 cup oats (I used a small mug)
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped into quarters
1/3 cup raisins
1 tbsp each peanut butter, almond butter and crunchy cashew butter (or 3 tbsp of one!)
1/2 cup mixed seeds
4 tbsp agave syrup, or use honey
1 small mashed ripe banana, or half a big one
2 tbsp cacao drops, or use plain dark chocolate
1 tbsp flaked almonds, to decorate



Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20x20cm square tin with greaseproof paper.

2. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until evenly combined. Spoon into your baking tin, spread out evenly and press down with the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes until just turning golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.


3. While it's cooling, melt your cacao/chocolate, either in the microwave or in a bowl over (but not touching) a pan of simmering water. Pour and spread the melted cacao drops over the energy bars and sprinkle flaked almonds on top before leaving to cool.



4. Before it's fully set, slice into squares. Keep in a tin and enjoy the guilt-free goodness.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Honestly Healthy Alkaline Eating: Two weeks in...


On the final day of 2014, I wrote a blog post setting out the new healthy lifestyle I was going to try come January 1st, and why I’d decided to do it. Two weeks on, I thought I’d give you an update as to how it’s going, whether it’s working and how I’m finding it.

And in Richard Ayoade style, I’m going to interview myself to do so. Because that’s not weird at all.


So Rach, how are you feeling?

Blimmin' fantastic! I genuinely feel great, and have been feeling this way for about a week and a half. I suppose it makes sense that putting less stodge into your body leaves you feeling less stodgy. Go figure.


How's the new way of eating going?

Amazingly well, thanks Rachel. Surprisingly so actually. I am discovering so many yummy, healthy foods and making such tasty meals that it's not actually been terribly hard.

The first three days or so, however, were tricky. All I wanted was a cup of tea and CHOCOLATE! But once I got through those days, it's been remarkably ok.

It really is true that the more sugar you eat, the more you want. And the less you eat, the less you want. I literally would never have imagined I could spend all day in a room containing a bowl of Quality Street and not touch them, but I have.

I like the colours of the final Quality Street
Essentially, food that isn't going to nourish me isn't as appealing as it once was, which is awesome. However I imagine it'd be very easy to slip back into less healthy ways. At the moment though I’m not even considering calories, just what’s going to do my body and mind good.


How strictly are you following the plan?

I'm not following the strict Honestly Healthy rules 100%, but the book's author Natasha recommends following it 70% of the time, and I'm definitely doing that. I’m going for a new lifestyle here so it has to be sustainable.

A few days in, I decided I'd have a little piece of cake. But d'you know what? It didn't do much for me. Haven't had any refined sugar since. *gasp* (I've had plenty of sweet stuff, don't you worry, just naturally-occurring ones.)

I'm amazed to say I haven't had any fizzy drinks apart from sparkling water (a big change for me), and have had a mere one glass of squash. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to give up "normal" tea with milk but now I have one cup every other day, and that's it. Those who know me well will understand this is a mahoosive cut-back.

Although meat is meant to be a no-no, I’ve had a few meals with meat (read on to see what I’ve been munching), but not much. I don’t struggle at all to eat vegetarian quite frankly.

I haven't been solely making recipes from the book - in fact, on the first evening I realised I couldn't make any of the dinner recipes without a trip to the supermarket, and this was in my mum's very well-stocked kitchen!

Pinterest and Instagram are awesome for recipe inspiration though. I definitely spend too much time on them.


Have you seen any results?

Oh, even better results than I’d expected! Let’s start with my skin: around day 10, mum said she thought my skin looked “less angry”. A few days further on and there’s no doubt about it – my skintone is more even, my spots are calmer and everything’s a little smoother. Not mind-blowingly so, I don’t suddenly have good skin, but there’s an improvement.

I think the fact that my skin is improving makes it easier for me to resist the milky, sugary chocolates. It's certainly encouraging. My face is less puffy too.

I felt slimmer after three days or so, probably due to eating fewer carbs and less sugar – a stark contrast to my diet over the Christmas period. And I have actually lost the weight I gained over Christmas and a tad more too.


Great stuff! So, what are you actually eating?

Well, my dear, allow me to give you some examples of the foods, meals and products I’m enjoying and that are helping me stay on the Honestly Healthy track…

Breakfasts:

Honestly Healthy nutty granola

Banana, peach and honey smoothie

My super skinny banana and peanut butter pancakes, made with half almond butter as it's more alkalising

Quinoa porridge made with quinoa flakes, raisins, almond milk, mashed banana, almond butter, cinnamon and agave syrup.
Quinoa porridge with blueberries, raisins, cinnamon, almond milk, banana and honey.
 Annoyingly, quinoa flakes are expeeeeensive!

Spelt bread with three - yes THREE - nut butters and sliced banana.
I'd never tried spelt bread before but I really like it - sort of like sourdough crossed with rye bread, I'd say. Anyway it's very low in gluten and is thus allowed.

Chocolate-banana chia pudding with blueberries.
This was my first experiment with what is widely considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet. To make it, soak 2 heaped tbsp of chia seeds and 3 pitted medjool dates in 1/2 cup almond milk over night. The next day, put it in a blender with 1 small ripe banana, 1/2 tbsp cocoa, 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla and a pinch of salt. Blend blend blend (this took me a while) until smooth and thick, spoon into a glass and enjoy.

Power breakfast bowl.
Overnight I soaked oats, chia seeds, raisins and grated apple in almond milk (it all absorbs, plumps up and turns super creamy!). Then in the morning I mixed in vanilla soya yoghurt and topped with banana, blueberries, pecan nuts and more cinnamon. Super duper tasty!


Lunches

For lunch I'm lucky to have had Mama Hosie's incredible homemade vegetable soups to see me through, usually with ryvitas on the side. I've also been eating beetroot falafels and houmous (neither of which were homemade though... Oops.)


Dinners


Warm salad of kale, roasted butternut squash, sprouts and red onion, and toasted pine nuts.

Butternut squash, spinach, chickpea and sprout curry.

Baked butternut squash topped with homemade bolognese and halloumi (which isn't from cows)

Honestly Healthy spelt pizza topped with tomato and garlic purée, buffalo mozzarella and halloumi (both not from cows), peppers, red onion and sweetcorn.

Remember how I mentioned I got a spiralizer for Christmas? Weeeeelll...

Chicken stirfry with courgetti noodles

Courgetti bolognese
I am LOVING courgetti right now and can't wait to experiment more with my spiralizer. Have a read of my piece for Epigram about spiralizers, why I think they're so great and a link to the one I have.


Snacks and drinks


I'm drinking so much herbal tea these days - this one was too pretty not to instagram

Healthy apple muffins - recipe here

Cheaper than most coconut yoghurt and tastes like a mix between sorbet and ice cream. Yum! (Their website)

My all-natural energy bars - recipe here
What else? Well, I had my first soya latte in Caffe Nero, without coffee but with sugar-free hazelnut syrup. Really tasty, pleasingly.

I have to admit though that I'm not a huge fan of natural soya yoghurt. The vanilla though, is better, and I like to add mine to breakfast mixes and smoothies.

The kind people at Coyo also very kindly sent me a selection of their coconut yoghurts to sample. I'd heard lots of good things about them but never tried them myself (as, you guessed it, they're a tad pricey for the average student.) However, they're really tasty and deliciously creamy. Coconut yoghurt is by no means low-calorie, but I'm learning calories aren't as important as I once thought, and the Coyo is actually doing me a load more good than a low-fat, low-cal normal yoghurt.


Yum! So what's been hard?

I’ll be honest, Rach, I’ve had to get a fair few new ingredients. And they’re often pricey. Still, I’m trying to pick and choose what I think is worth splashing out on, and my thinking is that it’s an investment in my health. Holland and Barrett has become my favourite shop on the high street.

Seeing the rest of my family eat meaty, pasta-y, creamy dishes is a bit of a bummer too. Essentially, eating this way just takes a little more effort, but hopefully it’s worth it.


Have you had any side-effects?

I had really bad headaches for the first few days but I reckon that was a result of caffeine withdrawal – thank the Lord I was never a coffee drinker as I imagine giving up both tea AND coffee must be a nightmare.


What about exercise?

Between you and me, I haven’t exercised merely as much as I should but that’s because I am in essay hell right now. (I definitely shouldn’t be writing this blog post but OH WELL!)

What I have been doing, however, is making sure I get my 10,000 steps a day thanks to my new Fitbit, which I love. I got a Fitbit One for Christmas – it’s an activity and sleep tracker which discreetly clips onto your bra and syncs with an app on your phone to show you all the data. You also get awards and badges when you reach milestones, which is fun. My Fitbit frequently tells me it loves me, which I thought was a tad forward considering we've only known each other for a few weeks...


What next?

Well, I'm going to try my best to carry on in the same way as I feel fantastic as a result. Being at home, working and not going to social events means it's been easy to control what I eat and there hasn't been too much distraction. Once I'm back at uni again, that will not be the case. However, I wouldn't let an eating regime stop me having fun. It's all about a balanced lifestyle. And this one's going pretty darn well.


I hope this update might have inspired you a bit! How are your healthy resolutions going? What do you think of my new lifestyle? Do you have any tips? Hit me up in the comments :)