Sunday, 27 January 2013

RECIPE: Stef's yummy ginger crunch creams

It's safe to say that I'm not the only baking-obsessed student round these parts, and one of my most delightful friends, Stef Oliver, is a fellow baking nut. (I'm sure she won't mind me calling her that.) So, Stef has been so kind as to share a recipe with me, and, being the generous person that I am, have decided to share it with you all...

According to Stef, her ginger crunch creams are the ultimate deliciously sweet biscuity treat to serve to your friends with a cup of tea or as dessert! (And don't they look amazing!?)


For the biscuits
300g softened butter
150g caster sugar
130g self raising flour, sifted
130g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon of ginger

For the topping
1 ½ tablespoons of golden syrup
100g softened butter
2 ½ teaspoons of ginger
250g icing sugar, sifted


1.        Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a square tin, approx 20cm x 30cm base, with greaseproof paper.

2.       Cream together 300g of butter and 150g caster sugar with a whisk until light and fluffy. Sift in both types of flour and 1tsp of ginger gradually, whisking it together as you go. Continue to whisk until the mixture has formed a large bread crumb effect.

3.       Squeeze the mixture together so it forms a dough before placing it into a tin and pressing it down so it is an even height all over and fills the tin. Prick all over with a fork.

4.       Bake for20-25 minutes or until it has turned a golden brown. Carefully remove the biscuit from the tin using the greaseproof paper and place in the fridge to cool.

5.       Whilst the biscuit is cooling, mix together the 1 ½ tablespoons of golden syrup, 100g softened butter, 250g icing sugar and 2 ½ tsp of ginger in a pan and place over a hob. Stir continuously until the butter has melted and it has formed a smooth thick liquid. If the butter is separating from the mixture add a little more icing sugar.

6.       Remove the biscuit from the fridge and pour the topping over, spreading it to form an even covering. Place back in the fridge for about 1 hour to cool and harden. Slice into small rectangular pieces and enjoy!

Tip: don’t eat too much of the liquid topping while you are waiting for it to harden in the fridge, or you won’t want any biscuits, dinner, or maybe even breakfast the next day!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Trying a "fast" day on the 5:2 diet

After having written about the 5:2 diet (which you can read here), I was somewhat intrigued, so decided to try out one of the "fast" days - AKA you're only allowed to eat 500 calories. I wrote this on the evening of trying it out:

"It’s the end of my first fast day, and I’m feeling jolly pleased with myself. And also somewhat peckish but that’s by the by. I did cheat a little bit to be fair: I went over the limit by a clementine and a few drinks (I disregarded the calories in my tea and squash) so probably had more like 600 calories really, but that’s still a hell of a lot less than usual!

The majority of today was actually a lot easier than I’d anticipated. Here’s how I went about it…

I was lucky in that I could lie in today, so I decided to do exactly that – after all, you can’t be tempted to eat if you’re asleep, am I right? So I got up at 11am, and had a cup of tea and a glass of water. At 12.30, I had a bowl of natural yoghurt with blueberries and frozen raspberries (around 100 calories), but to be honest I wasn’t even that hungry then.

I went out to do some errands as I knew a bit of fresh air and movement would help. Bought an eight-pack of Diet Pepsi and four 1 litre bottles of sparkling water to help get me through my fast days. Drank a whole bottle of said water. At 4.30, I effectively had lunch: a bowl of Heinz tomato soup and some Velvet Crunch crisps (about 200 calories). My friend offered me a doughnut, and I actually managed to resist. Get in.

The rest of the afternoon was OK – I was drinking LOADS to stop myself eating, but by the time it got to around 6.30pm, my tummy was starting to tell me it wanted food, despite my only having “lunch” two hours earlier. I’d only calculated for one more mini meal of the day, so I knew I had to try and hold out a bit longer. More tea and a Pepsi to tide me over. Before long, my rumbling stomach was too much to bear, so I had dinner: half a tin of baked beans and some broccoli (about 200 calories). The only problem was it had barely made me feel any less empty. Hmph.

I usually have various bits of pudding in the evening a few hours before bed, and by tonight I just couldn’t help myself but have a clementine. Wild, I know. Cup of decaf tea too.

Right now it’s 11pm and I’m hungry. Boo. Quite frankly I just want to go to bed and wake up and it be morning so I can eat. I also feel like I’m surely going to want to eat loads tomorrow which will defeat the point of today. Must try not to.

However, overall today was not that bad. In fact, it was fine until the evening. It’s made me consider whether maybe I don’t actually need anywhere near as much food as I usually consume. The majority of the day wasn’t challenging because I was hungry, but just because I wanted to eat. And that’s the problem: I just like food.

I’m not looking forward to another day like this to be honest, but I suppose now’s the worst point."

Then I went to bed. However, at about 1.30am I was still awake, and struggling to get to sleep because I felt uncomfortably hungry. What did I do? Got up and ate some shortbread. Good one, Rachel. So yes, I failed at even one fast day. 

A few days later, I thought I'd have another go. However, I was unsuccessful yet again: a banana and some blueberries were breakfast, but when I came out of a two hour lecture at 12.45 my hunger was horrible. It's always embarrassing being the one with the rumbling stomach in a lecture, and I had a meeting to go to next - there was only one solution: a pain au chocolat from the Co-op.

So yes, I gave up. But hey, I gave it a try, and it was more out of interest than any real desire to lose weight or change my life. I have serious respect for people who actually manage to follow this. If you do, how are you finding it? If you're contemplating it, has my experience put you off or helped?

RECIPE: Cheesy vegetable (and optional frankfurter) bake

Cheesy veg and frankfurter bake
I concocted this recipe this evening largely because I had a load of random bits in my fridge that needed using up, but I enjoyed the result so much that I feel the need to write it up for the world. Yes, the world. It was that good.

Think of a cross between a potato gratin and a cauliflower cheese, then make it much more exciting, and this bake is pretty much what you get. The cheese sauce is taken to a whole new level thank to the onions, and all the veg work really nicely together - I imagine you could substitute pretty much whatever you have, so feel free to get creative - I'm thinking parsnip would be delish. It's a great way of using up whatever you may have lurking at the back of your fridge. I really like frankfurters, and think they complement the veg delightfully. However, if you wanted to serve this as a veggie side dish to a piece of meat, just leave them out.

A cross-section
As I was sort of making it up as I went along, the quantities are slightly guessed, but to be honest it's the sort of dish that doesn't really require exact measurements anyway. For the sauce in particular it's all a bit of guesswork, but you can tell when it gets to the right consistency. This meal looks delightfully colourful on the plate, and is the sort of thing that impresses people, despite how simple it is to make.

I would say this serves two people as a main dish, and maybe four as a side. But I suppose it depends on how hungry you are! Comfort food at its best, if you ask me.

Delightfully golden on top


1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into slices of about 1cm deep
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 1cm thick circles
1 large handful of Brussels sprouts, washed and chopped in half
1/2 a cauliflower, broken up into little florets
1/2 a red onion, cut into segments
50g butter, plus extra for greasing
2 heaped tbsp flour
250ml milk
350g cheese - I used a mix of Cheddar and Red Leicester, grated
3 frankfurters, chopped into smallish bits


1. Preheat the oven and grill to 180C and grease an ovenproof dish. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the sweet potato, carrot and sprouts. Boil for about 10 minutes, adding the cauliflower for the last 7, then drain.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Fry the onions in a pan with a bit of oil until they're slightly brown, stirring constantly. Turn the heat right down, then add the butter and melt gently. Add a bit of the flour, then some milk, and keep stirring whilst adding the rest until lumps dissolve and it starts to thicken. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese until you have a smooth sauce - to make it thinner add more milk, and to thicken add more flour. Season with salt and pepper if you like.

This is what my oniony cheese sauce looked like

3. Spoon all the veg into the dish, add the frankfurters and pour the cheese and onion sauce over the top, spreading it out evenly (when in the oven, the sauce all seeps down through the veg and it's divine.) Scatter the rest of the grated cheese on top, add a bit more seasoning and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until bubbling and golden. Dig in!

Before covering with the cheese sauce and cheese


Why student life is great.

In my latest article for, I give you a whopping 24 reasons it's great to be a student. And, to make said article a kajillion times more amusing, each reason is beautifully demonstrated by a a hilarious picture of a cat. I cannot take credit for the cat pictures, but have to say the idea is utter genius.

Have a read:

"Let’s face it, you’ve got a pretty sweet deal with this student life thing, yet how often do you moan about deadlines, hangovers and being cold?

And how often do you hear graduates moaning about missing their student days and wishing they could go back? Precisely.

So, next time you feel like curling up in the foetal position and crying “woe is me!”, I suggest you have another look at the following list and remind yourself that actually, student life is bloody great.

1. You can sleep in. A lot.
enter image description here

2. Ergo, You can go out. A lot.
enter image description here

3. And stay up as late as you want.
enter image description here

4. No-one judges you if you’re in your PJs at 3pm…
enter image description here

5. …or eating pizza at 3am.
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6. You can drink juice straight from the carton, because it’s YOURS and only yours.
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7. You don’t have to persuade your parents you’re too ill to go to classes.
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8. It’s perfectly acceptable to use “I can’t afford it” as an excuse.
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9. You get discounts on loads of stuff.
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10. There are (practically) no boundaries as to what a student can or can’t wear.
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11. You don’t have to study subjects you hate any more (well, hopefully).
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12. Activities, societies, clubs and trips are all conveniently organised in one place.
enter image description here"

And for the 12 more reasons and cat pictures - let's not lie, the cat pictures are what you want really - click through to the rest of the article here.


Friday, 25 January 2013

Are social networks hindering our degrees and work?

pic from

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... Our generation has grown up with social networks, and for most of us, life without them would be somewhat inconceivable nowadays. I'm the first to admit to being a complete social media addict, and I'm starting to worry that my seemingly obsessive dependence on social networks is going to do a lot more harm than good in the long run. Talking to my fellow student friends, it would seem I'm not alone...

We sit down at our laptops to work on an essay, and despite having purposefully closed our Facebook and Twitter tabs, we inevitably find ourselves opening them up after typing every few lines, just in case we have a notification. Whilst actually revising, we discover an interesting fact and feel the need to tweet it - after all, it could get retweeted! And we could end up with more followers!

Is there anything greater in the Twitter world than a retweet? It's the ultimate sign of approval. A retweet shows that you - yes YOU - have said something so interesting/funny/insightful that someone wishes to share it with everyone they know. Of course there's the 'favorite' too, but realistically, a favorite is a pat on the shoulder compared to the retweet's bear hug.

Back to your revision - obviously whilst you only opened Twitter back up for a moment to share your oh-so-interesting piece of info with the Twittersphere, you then inevitably find yourself reading the ever-refreshing news feed, whiling away hours looking at Instagrammed pictures of lunches (yes, I myself am one of those awful culprits) and ridiculous attempts to coin witty hashtags. #doyouthinkthisislongenoughtobeanironichashtag?

But OH GOD what if no-one retweets or replies to you!? Should you delete the tweet? You sit there feeling as insecure as a 13 year old on the first day of a new school, library books open, poised to start note-taking, but all you can really focus on is your online persona.

This is a lot worse with Facebook. We measure self-worth in Facebook 'likes' these days. Let me tell you, if I come back to this blog after it's published and see that people other than my family have 'liked' it, I will undoubtedly feel great. If no-one has, I may just cry. Or have a Twitter rant (because Twitter is always there, even when the real people in your life aren't.)

Eventually, you realise you're not getting any of your essay done whatsoever, so you shut down your laptop and go to a different room to do some old-fashioned work with books, paper and pens. Right. Now you will be efficient and productive.

Except you won't, will you? What with your iPhone snug in your pocket, there's no getting away from your online social life. Of course, you can't turn your phone off, because what if someone desperately needs to contact you? Every buzz or ping my iPhone makes gives me a little rush and is treated with disproportionate importance, so much so that if I am in a lecture and can't get my phone out, I may actually start to feel a bit twitchy (and obviously will lose focus on the knowledge being imparted to me.)

And the trouble is, when your phone is there, you can't help but just keep checking. You know, just in case someone has started following you on Instagram, or liked your new profile picture. Once you tap the Facebook app, there's no going back. Oh look, someone's shared a video of a baby that won't stop laughing at a dog. I'll just have a quick look. A little revision break, that's all.

Here's the issue: I love social media. There's no way on earth I would have been able to keep in touch with as many school friends as I have without Facebook, and it's really very nice to be able to know what everyone's up to.

But my social media addiction seems to be going a bit far. In the cinema, I find myself composing a tweet about the film, and even when just watching TV, I can't resist the urge to check out what everyone on Facebook and Twitter are thinking. Do I have such a lack of focus that I'm incapable of doing anything without using social media simultaneously?

The great thing about both Facebook and Twitter is they're constant sources of information, entertainment and amusement. Never again must we find ourselves bored, waiting and with nothing to do. Twitter can be incredibly useful professionally as well as socially, so really, we're just enhancing our career prospects, right?

Those career prospects which may fail to materialise at all if we ourselves fail to graduate because we spent far too much time tweeting, and not enough revising. Our attention spans seem to be diminishing with every passing day.

So what's the answer? Why are we so incapable of going without social media for more than a few minutes? Obviously it doesn't help that exam revision and essay work is - for the most part - something of a chore, so we will take any distraction we can get.

Going cold turkey and deactivating our social media accounts realistically is not an option. Could it be that our generation are getting just as easily addicted to social media as they are to booze, drugs and sugar? One thing's for sure - the exam results will tell.

Read this article on the Huffington Post here, and you know, feel free to like it. If you do like it.

Check out my profile here.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

RECIPE: Chocolate chip marble cake

All my exams and essays are finally over (hoorah!), so what's the first thing I do? Bake, obvs. I'd been genuinely craving getting my bake on for so long, but hadn't let myself as I knew I would feel far too guilty for not working. This afternoon, however, I commandeered the kitchen in a flurry of flour and let my inner baking addict out.

It just so happened that two of my housemates' birthdays were in the Christmas holidays, so I hadn't been able to bake them a cake each. Very sad indeed. What a perfect opportunity to make some belated birthday cakes then!

My housemate Alex's favourite cake is a classic Victoria sponge (a good choice, I'm sure you'll agree), so that's what I made for her. But for Sian, I decided to do something a little more exciting, and came up with this recipe for chocolate chip marble cake.

It was really simple to make alongside the Victoria sponge, as the base mixture is the same. Seeing as I only had two 20cm sandwich tins, I made two smaller cakes (one of each flavour), but you could easily double this recipe and sandwich two layers together.

Marble cakes always look really impressive when you cut into them - who doesn't love a reaction of "oooh" as the first slice is taken? - and are great if you're not sure whether you want a plain sponge or chocolate cake. I added chocolate chunks for extra jazziness.

Thanks to Cadbury's Philadelphia (which I'd been a little bit sceptical to try), the icing is really quick and easy too. According to one of my housemates, "The icing really makes it." Always good to know. I must say this cake has gone down a treat with everyone who's had a piece, and judging by how quickly it's disappeared, is something of a winner.

As always, don't forget to get your butter and eggs to room temperature beforehand!



100g caster sugar
100g butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
100g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g milk chocolate (chips or cut into little chunks)
1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
1 160g tub Cadbury's Philadelphia
1 tbsp (ish) icing sugar
1 mini Flake bar

Before crumbling the Flake on top


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 170C/gas 5. Grease and line a round 20cm sandwich tin.

2. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, butter, eggs, flour, baking powder and vanilla together using a handheld electric mixer until you have a smooth, soft batter. Stir in the chocolate chips.

3. Using a tablespoon, drop about half the mixture into the tin in large blobs (about four or five). Sieve the cocoa powder into the remaining cake mix, and stir in until smooth. Drop the chocolate mix into the tin in the gaps around the vanilla mix, and then use a skewer or a spoon to swirl the two mixtures together a bit. Don't overdo it though, as you don't want them mixed together.

4. Bake for about 25 mins until golden, shrinking away from the sides, a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed - I know, plenty of ways to check it's ready. Go round the sides of a tin with a knife, leave to cool in the tin for about ten minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. For the icing, simply use an electric whisk to beat the chocolate philly with a little bit of icing sugar until it is light and creamy - to make it thicker, just add more icing sugar. When the cake is completely cool, cover with the icing and top with the crumbled flake bar. Yum.

And shortly after they were baked, this was all that was left. #hungrystudents

Friday, 18 January 2013

RACHEL LOVES: Her vintage Hermès silk scarf

An Hermès silk scarf is possibly one of the most classic items a girl can have in her wardrobe. There's a certain elegance that they seem to somehow add to any outfit, and I've always felt silk scarves in general have the power to instantly make me feel that little bit classier.

Of course, Hermès is the ultimate. The orange boxes are iconic, and I don't think I'm going too far to suggest Hermès silk scarves embody timeless French beauty. Well, alongside a Chanel 2.55 bag, perhaps.

They're so versatile too - not only are there seemingly infinite ways in which you can wear a silk scarf round your neck, but you can also tie one to a handbag or wear in your hair. Totally channelling Audrey Hepburn.

But what could be even better than an Hermès silk scarf tied round your neck and blowing in the wind? Why, a vintage Hermès silk scarf tied round your neck and blowing in the wind, of course. And would you believe that as of December 25th 2012 I am fortunate enough to be a lucky owner of my very own. *pinches self*


I absolutely adore my scarf, and it is the sort of thing I'll wear for the rest of my life, and then pass on to my daughter (presuming I have one, that is. How tragic it will be if I only have a son. Poor boy.)

It's exquisitely made and is beautifully silky. As you'd expect from fine silk really. The design is so adorable too: it's covered in lots of intricate and pretty old perfume bottles. If you look closely, you'll find the word 'Hermès' here and there, but it's not overly in your face - no-one wants to be a designer-label-show-off, do they? Subtle is the way to go in my books.

Adding yet more charm as far as I'm concerned is the little bit of French writing. On one side it reads: "Qu'importe le flacon..." and then on the other: "Pourvu qu'on ait l'ivresse..." Now the French student in me particularly loves this as there's a subjunctive structure in there. Ooh yeah, love me a bit of French grammar.

This is actually a quote by a very wise French poet called Alfred de Musset, and translates literally as: "The bottle doesn't matter... As long as you get drunk." What? I hear you thinking. That sounds a bit crude for Hermès!

Well, I interpret it to mean something far nicer. I think de Musset is saying that what's important is that we're happy, not how we get there. It's not the method, but the result. It could also mean "Don't judge a book (or people) by its cover... It's what's inside that counts." The line makes more sense in the context of his poem:

Aimer est le grand point, qu'importe la maîtresse ?
Qu'importe le flacon, pourvu qu'on ait l'ivresse ?

The first line means "Loving is what's important, whoever the women is". So the second line from my scarf is really just proving his point by creating another metaphor. De Musset really means that love is what  matters. Aww. Isn't that nice?

After thinking about all this and working it out, I actually love my scarf even more - I hadn't even thought that was possible. My scarf is wise. It gives advice. Just like the Kate Spade bangles Father Christmas also so kindly gave me. Clearly, he was trying to educate me this year.

So if you're reading this thinking I WANT A VINTAGE HERMÈS SILK SCARF! (and quite frankly I wouldn't blame you if you are), fortunately for you, Father Christmas told my mother where he got my scarf, she told me and now I can tell you. It's from a shop called Rennies Seaside Modern which is based in Kent, but also has a website which features lots of lovely scarves. I think vintage ones are cheaper than new too. You can place an online order and have your very own scarf teaching you French wisdom and adding elegance to your daily life in no time. Voilà!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Healthy recipes with minimum effort and maximum flavour

Easy to make, diet-friendly and delicious. What more could you want? This is my latest article for the fabby fab fab

"Healthy eating. If that slightly depressing phrase conjures up sad images of lettuce, strange green juices and bland brown mush then this is the article for you...

These recipes all require minimum effort (like, seriously little effort) and are low in calories and fat, but are so delicious that you won't be able to notice. What's more, they're all student-friendly ingredient-wise, so no more of that "Oh, but all I can afford is pasta with cheese on top" nonsense, thank you very much.

We've got you covered with options for breakfast, lunch and dinner; veggie or meat; sweet or savoury; so there's no excuse to give up your New Year's health resolutions (well, not yet anyway). And not a lettuce leaf in sight.

1. Hearty Chicken, Leek and Chickpea Stew

enter image description here

Serves 4, about 291 calories per portion


1tbsp olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced into rings
2 carrots, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g (14oz) chicken breast, diced
1-1.3 litres chicken stock
75g broccoli, cut into florets
1 x 410g tin of chickpeas
A few handfuls of frozen peas


Heat oil in a large pan and fry the leek, carrots and garlic for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Turn up the heat and add the chicken, then cook for 3 minutes until the chicken is browning. Add the stock and broccoli. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the chicken and vegetables are cooked. Stir in the chickpeas and peas and heat through for a couple more minutes.

2. Super Healthy Stir-Fry

enter image description here

Serves 2, about 389 calories per portion


1 tbsp olive oil
2 diced chicken breasts
3 chopped cloves of garlic
1 pack of stir-fry veg (or chop all your own if you have the time)
2 tbsp reduced-salt soy sauce
200g rice noodles


Drop the rice noodles in a pan of boiling water and leave to simmer. Meanwhile, heat the oil, and add the chicken and onions. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the chicken is turning golden, add the veggies, and stir-fry for another 2 minutes before adding the soy sauce. Stir for a further 30 seconds and check the chicken is cooked. Drain the rice noodles, then mix into the stir-fry and serve.

3. Ultimate Detox Green Soup

enter image description here

Serves 2, about 99 calories per serving - yes, really.


½ tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ bunch spring onions, chopped
1 courgette, sliced
1 potato, peeled and diced
500ml vegetable stock
140g bag of watercress and spinach


Cook the spring onions and courgette in a large pan with the garlic and olive oil until softened. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes then tip in the stock, season well and simmer until potato is tender. Add the leaves, simmer for a minute then whizz until smooth with a blender or in a liquidiser.

4. Homemade Bircher Muesli Breakfast Bowl

enter image description here

Serves 1, about 360 calories


40g porridge oats
1 handful sultanas (or other dried fruit, chopped)
100ml (ish) apple juice
100g fat-free natural yoghurt
A few almonds, chopped
Handful berries
1 banana, sliced
½ tsp ground cinnamon OR a squirt of runny honey (or both!)


The night before you want to eat your muesli, measure the oats and sultanas into a bowl, and pour just enough apple juice on top that it’s all covered. Wrap the bowl with cling-film and leave to soak in the fridge overnight. In the morning, top with the yoghurt, almonds, fruit and cinnamon/honey and dig in."

For the rest of the article and more scrummy recipes, click on through to the studentbeans site here. Happy healthy eating, kids!


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Weighing up the 5:2 diet

Ahh January. If there was ever a good time of year to try and kick-start a healthy eating regime, it's now. How appropriate that Dr Michael Mosley has chosen tomorrow to launch his new diet book. Clever man.

There are all sorts of faddy diets out there which most probably do more harm than good (the cotton ball diet, anyone?), but the general consensus amongst people who've tried the 5:2 diet - and then told the world online - is that this one is different.

So what exactly is the 5:2 diet? I hear you ask. Allow me to explain:

Also known as intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet - originally tried and documented by Mosley - is actually (refreshingly) simple. For two non-consecutive days of the week you reduce your calorie intake to just 500 calories for women and 600 for men, but then you get to eat normally for the other five days. Easy peasy, surely?

Well, it's supposedly a great diet for food-lovers (like myself) as you don't have to give anything up. There are no rules as to what you can or can't eat, just the quantity on those two days. So if you wanted to eat one 500 calorie piece of cake on your fast day and nothing else, you could (I wouldn't though!). Or if you wanted to drink 35 cups of tea with skimmed milk to get your 500 a day you could do that too (but again, I wouldn't.)

The fast days must be utterly foul, but I suppose they're just about tolerable because you know it's only for one day, and you can eat what you like (within reason, I imagine) tomorrow. The 5:2 diet has caused a real stir in the health world because people are actually managing to follow it and see results.

My guess is that the reason it's gone down so well with so many people is that the majority of us struggle with willpower. We're feeble. Most people can't stick to their New Year's resolutions for more than a few days before giving up, yet the 5:2 diet doesn't seem like a daunting complete diet overhaul forever and ever, it's just a couple of days a week. Totally manageable, right?

However, the 5:2 diet isn't just about losing weight, oh no. Scientists have long believed in the health benefits of fasting such as increased lifespan, and reduced blood glucose and cholesterol levels. All good stuff then.

The oh-so-trusty people on the internet are generally raving about the diet. Many claim that it's transformed their lives for the better in various ways - people say they have more energy on the fast days and don't even feel like they want to over-indulge on the normal ones to compensate.

Once you realise you can tolerate feeling hungry, apparently it's fine. Mosley claimed that 'After the settling in period, it has become quite easy'. He's probably right, as when it comes to eating habits, I've found it's all down to routine.

Obviously, there are some concerns when it comes to the 5:2 diet. Some worry that it may encourage eating disorders, but then again you could say that about most diets (not to mention every film, advert, magazine and TV show we're shown in society today.) It's all about being sensible, as far as I'm concerned, which may be a life principle I follow a bit too religiously.

So could the 5:2 diet really be as great as everyone claims? I may just have to give it a try to find out. Watch this space...


The Fast Diet: The Secret of Intermittent Fasting - Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer is on sale from 10th January 2013

For more about the science behind intermittent fasting, read Dr Andrew Weil's article here

Read this blog on the Huffington Post and check out my profile here

RECIPE: Banana and peanut butter muffins with chocolate chips and hazelnuts

Do you ever get a sudden urge to bake something specific? I mean a desire that springs up out of nowhere, for something really random? Well I did. And said urge was for peanut buttery/bananary/chocolatey/hazelnutty muffins. So that is exactly what I baked.

I adore the texture of muffins, particularly the muffin top - (*penny drops*) yes that's where the name comes from - and these are deliciously moist. This is mainly down to all the fabulous mashed banana in the recipe, which also means there's no need for any butter. Hoorah! *dieters of the world rejoice* I also think chopped nuts work wonderfully in muffins to add a bit of crunch.

If you ever find yourself with over-ripe bananas, this is a great way to use them up (or you could try my banana blueberry pancakes, banana pecan muffins, basic banana birthday cake or banoffee cake - if you hadn't noticed, I like to use bananas in my baking.)

Sure, there are quite a few flavours going on here, but I think they all work perfectly together, and am a sucker for a peanut butter and banana combo. I find it interesting that you very rarely see muffins like this here in the UK, either in cafés or shops, but imagine they're more commonplace in the homeland of peanut butter, the ole U S of A.

This is an easy peasy quick recipe, and makes (somewhat awkwardly, I'll admit) 13 big muffins. They're especially delicious warm, and make a perfect afternoon tea accompaniment or breakfast treat. I know what I'm having tomorrow morning, that's for sure...


2.5 very ripe large bananas (or 3 small ones), mashed
125ml olive or sunflower oil
2 eggs
250g plain flour
100g caster sugar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
100g peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
50g chocolate chips (I used dark but any kind will do)
50g shelled blanched hazelnuts, chopped into rough halves

How I chopped my hazelnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Pour the oil into a jug and beat in the eggs until smooth. Measure out the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a large bowl, stir together and then mix in the wet mixture followed by the mashed bananas. Next stir in the peanut butter until no streaks of it remain and fold in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts.

The egg mix, dry mix and mashed bananas before being combined
3. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases until each one is about 2/3 full - don't go any higher than about 1cm from the top as these babies rise a lot in the oven - and bake for 20 minutes. When ready, they should be golden on top, springy to the touch and a wire inserted into the middle should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave them in the tin for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely... Or for as long as you (and everyone else) can resist the delicious smell!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

My best budget beauty buys

I know what you're thinking: 'Oh, good idea, Rachel. How original of you. A post on budget beauty buys, Like that's never been done before.' And I know, most women's magazines publish their lists of the best budget beauty buys on an annual basis (with alliteration like that, what journalist wouldn't?) But I've decided to do my own because a) I am a real person with an actual limited budget (hello, student life!) and b) I have been on said budget for long enough now to have discovered some good stuff.

By no means do I consider myself to be an expert in the beauty world - heck, I'm embarrassingly lazy when it comes to my (lack of) skincare routine actually. But - as Good Housekeeping would say (yes, I am prematurely middle-aged) - these are all tried, tested and trusted, only by me, but hey. Here are my beauty must-haves that will leave both you and your purse feeling and looking good:

1. Bourjois Magic Nail Polish Remover - £4.99 from Superdrug

Bourjois Magic Nail Polish Remover

This is amazing stuff and is a must-have for any fellow glitter nail varnish addicts. The most effective (and best smelling) nail varnish remover I've ever tried, this is definitely worth its price as it lasts waaaaay longer than a pack of individual pads would.

2. Nivea Pearly Shine Lip Balm - £1.50 from Superdrug

Nivea Pearly Shine SPF10 4.8g

Moisturised lips are a must, and not only does this lip balm do the job effectively, it also adds a very subtle shimmer and hint of colour. Possibly the most low maintenance way to glam up your lips - just slick a bit on as you dash to your lecture/meeting and you're good to go.

3. Batiste Dry Shampoo - £2.99 for a 200ml can from Superdrug

Batiste Dry Shampoo Cherry 200ml

As I mentioned in a previous post about my style and beauty no-no's, greasy-looking hair is not a good look and is now completely avoidable thanks to dry shampoo, the best of which I've ever tried is Batiste.  Some dry shampoo can leave your hair looking a bit grey (I once overdid it and was then told this by a guy), but Batiste have different ones with hints of colour to get round this problem, as well as various perfumed cans. An absolute student staple for those many occasions when you've overslept or are, quite frankly, too lazy to wash you hair.

4. Barry M Nail Varnishes - from £2.99 from Superdrug

Barry M Nail Paint Rose Quartz Glitter

Barry M: painting the nails of students since 1982 (maybe). £2.99, PEOPLE! Barry M nail varnishes are incredible, and always at the cutting edge when it comes to new trends in the nail world - I'm talking glitter, gelly, magnetic, colour-changing, crackle, foil effects... They do it all and they do it all so cheaply. Nuff said.

5. Sure Anti-Perspirant - £3.15 from Boots

Me: I have that deodorant.
My friend: Yeah it's good isn't it.
Me: Did you just buy it because it was the cheapest too?
My friend: Obvs.

Whenever I'm in the uni gym changing room, I'm bound to see a fellow student with this deodorant, because it is the cheapest. However, upon using said deodorant for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by how lovely it smells. It's really very nice. Win-win.

6. VO5 Shampoo and Conditioner - 99p each from Superdrug

Just like the aforementioned deodorant, I chose these purely for their student-friendly price, and yet again, I was amazed at just how good they are. With different ranges for different hair types, there's bound to be a pair to suit everyone - but realistically, at this price, who cares if you use the "Plump Me Up" set on hair that is naturally sufficiently plumped?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A word of advice

That is all. I love this. As you were.

RECIPE: Banana and blueberry pancakes

Banana and blueberry pancake with golden syrup
An American classic, everyone loves pancakes for breakfast or brunch. Ideally we'd be in a retro US diner with a huge stack of them and a peanut butter milkshake on the side, but hey you can't have it all.

A lot of people consider pancakes to be a real treat, but they're actually very simple and quick to make. So why not whip up a batch to surprise your family/friends one morning? They will definitely thank you for it.

I particularly like this recipe as the mashed banana adds plenty of sweetness thus eliminating the need for any sugar - this is why it's important that your bananas are really ripe, preferably turning brown and speckly. 

Thanks to the blueberries as well, these pancakes are actually somewhat healthy, so you needn't feel too guilty about stuffing your face. However, if you're catering for non-blueberry lovers, you can leave them out, OR - for a slightly less guilt-free alternative - substitute chocolate chips.

They're actually delicious as they are, but I like mine with golden syrup, maple syrup, Nutella, peanut butter and honey - not all at once, I might add. This recipe makes delightfully soft pancakes thanks to the banana and is so easy - just mix everything together and go!

Plain banana pancakes, ready to eat!


200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
300ml milk
20g butter, melted
2 bananas, really ripe and mashed
a handful or two of blueberries, chopped in halves
sunflower oil for cooking

A plain banana pancake, ready to be flipped!


1. Mix together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Beat the egg with the milk in a jug, and then whisk into the dry ingredients with a fork to make a thick smooth batter. Stir in the melted butter, and mix in the mashed bananas and chopped blueberries.

2. Heat a teaspoon of oil or small knob of butter in a large non-stick frying pan*. Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter per pancake into the pan and watch them spread and small bubbles appear on the surface. Cook for about 1-2 minutes over a medium heat then flip over and cook another minute or so until golden. Try to stop everyone devouring the first one straight out of the frying pan, and smother with your choice of syrup or spread when ready to eat. YUM!

*Or if you're a country bumpkin like me, you can cook these straight on to the simmering plate of your AGA with a greaseproof sheet on top.

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