Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Honestly Healthy alkaline eating: Before I begin…



I know what you’re probably thinking: “Oh, Rachel’s one of those many delusional women who make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight.” Well, just hear me out. Bear with.

What I am going to try, dear friends, is alkaline eating, as recently popularised by Natasha Corrett of Honestly Healthy and loved by many a celeb. It’s not going to be a diet, I’m hoping it’s going to be the start of a lifestyle change.

Honestly Healthy is all about alkaline eating. I won’t explain eeeeeverything here as I’m so not the expert, but basically an alkaline diet is “one which avoids ‘acid forming foods’ such as dairy, meat, sugar and coffee and replaces them with plant foods and wholegrains.”

If you’re going to try and have a bit of a health overhaul, why not give it a go in January when there’s so much encouragement and inspiration around?

The trouble is though, it can be hard to know where to start, can’t it? Quitting sugar, eating vegan, cutting out gluten, 5:2, Atkins… All the choices are a little overwhelming.

Sure, you could just attempt to eat healthier and exercise more, but I find it can actually be easier when you have a specific regime to stick to.

Natasha Corrett
Natasha Corrett - Telegraph pic
I’ve been aware of Honestly Healthy for some time: a good friend is a fan of the books, I’ve read interviews and seen interesting-looking dishes on my Instagram-feed. The first book was actually published back in 2012 which is – golly – three years ago now!

It wasn’t until a couple of days ago, however, that I decided to try alkaline eating myself.

In classic post-Christmas media style, a detox feature about Honestly Healthy appeared in the Telegraph. Naturally, I read it with keen interest. And by that I mean fingers-in-ears at the kitchen table as my family bustled around making their breakfasts and playing with the dogs.

While weight-loss is a result of alkaline eating for most people (and who amongst us wouldn’t like to shift half a stone?), there’s another benefit that caught my eye and ultimately made me decide to give it a go: improved skin tone.

For Natasha, alkaline eating balanced her hormones, resulting in her acne disappearing.

I don’t exactly shout about it, but my skin is not good. In fact, it’s been bad for a long time. A loooooong time. I’ve tried nearly everything a doctor can offer but to no avail. My skin basically hates me, it’s getting worse and knocking my confidence every day.



So, what with there being no time like the present, I ordered the first Honestly Healthy book (the third, Honestly Healthy Cleanse, comes out tomorrow!). I also couldn’t resist a spot more research, and, rather encouragingly, I found lots more testimonials from acne-sufferers who’d solved their skin problems through alkaline eating. Amazing!

Equally amazingly, my book was delivered by good old Amazon the day after I placed my order, despite having chosen free 3-5 day delivery. It’s little life wins like that, isn't it?

Anyway, the book looks fabulous. All the food looks insanely good, there’s tons of interesting info and it’s all super inspiring. Sure, I’m going to have to source and purchase a few snazzy, healthy (weird) ingredients, but that’s to be expected. And to be fair there are far fewer of what I deem weird ingredients than certain other healthy cookbooks (naming no names…)

My plan is to eat the Honestly Healthy way for January, but I know it isn’t going to be easy. Having decided I'd start on January 1st I've spent the last few days on December eating all the bad food in the house. And thanks to Christmas, there's a lot. Oops.

Essentially, for January I shall have to try and avoid caffeine, alcohol, dairy produce, meat, sugar, wheat and gluten, and processed foods. I know. When the month is up, we'll see. Hopefully I'll be converted for life!

Between you and me, I've still got SO much Christmas chocolate left. I guess I'll just have to eat, like, one Lindor a week. No-one give me any chocolate until 2017 mmm kay?

Pleasingly though, Natasha recommends following the alkaline pattern of eating 70 per cent of the week and then relaxing about the other 30 per cent, which seems a lot less daunting.

An Honestly Healthy creation - yum! (pic from moveyourframe blog)
I know where I’m going to struggle though:

  • Tea – oh tea, I don’t know how to get through a day without you. I’m just going to have to make you with almond milk and learn to love you.
  • Chocolate – although one can make many a chocolatey healthy treat using cacao and whatnot, sometimes all you want is a slab of creamy, sugary milk chocolate. 
  • Burgers – I don’t even eat them that often but SWEET LORD I love burgers! Thanks goodness I'm not a huge meat-eater, but I do enjoy the occasional chicken curry or ham sandwich.
  • Bread – BRRREEEEAAAAAAD!
  • Coke – I know how bad fizzy drinks are for you, yet I continue to consume them in a big way. Always diet, natch, as if the lack of calories makes them OK. MUST GIVE THEM UP!
  • Yoghurt – I blimmin' love yoghurt. At breakfast, for pudding, in smoothies. Never mind, I’ll have to splash out on things like CoYo and hope I love them too.
  • Peanut butter – I cried a little bit inside upon reading that peanut butter is a highly acid-forming food. It’s going to be seriously hard to wean myself off my beloved PB, but I have to try. Maybe almond butter could fill the void…

The thing is though, I know my body will adjust. The more you consume all of the above, the more you crave them. It’s all about training your body, readjusting your habits and creating a new lifestyle.

Another concern of mine is being awkward when invited to friends' or social events. It’s so common to follow specific diets these days (I swear half the population is gluten-free), but I think I’ll just remember 30% of the time I can relax the alkaline rules a bit (HIYA, PEANUT BUTTER!)

Seeing my housemates eating creamy, cheesy sausage pasta bakes will undoubtedly kill me – I really struggle from food fomo – but I’ve got to be strong. I hope that by thinking about the potential improvements to my skin I’ll be able to stick to it better than previous healthy eating attempts.

I am so making these carrot and halloumi patties (pic from moveyourframe blog)
It’s undoubtedly going to be a more expensive way of eating, but I’ve just got to consider it an investment in my health. And hey, I love a good challenge.

Whenever I go through phases of healthier eating I always feel so much better in myself, somehow more in love with the world, and generally happier. Srsly. I have no doubt that will happen as I attempt to eat the Honestly Healthy way.

So wish me luck, lovely people! You know I’ll keep you posted with my endeavours. If you’re not already, follow me on Instagram where I’ll undoubtedly share any particularly good healthy creations.

I would laaaave to hear about any of your experiences with Honestly Healthy, alkaline eating or general healthy eating. Do let me know!

Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope every single one of you has a happy, healthy, prosperous 2015. I feel good about 2015. We can do anything, you guys. Let’s all achieve our dreams!
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Sunday, 28 December 2014

A very Hosie Christmas, in pictures

Unsurprisingly, I was the first to rise on Christmas morning. It was at the normally ungodly hour of 6.30am that I stirred, and, knowing my family wouldn't be up for hours, I tried to lie still in bed.

It didn't last long. Luckily, the wonderful people of Twitter were up and keen to share my excitement, and it was only a matter of time before I started what was to become a very long Snapchat story...

I'm really attractive first thing in the morning
I spied a bulging stocking and couldn't wait much longer before getting up and amusing myself. There was something really rather lovely about being the only one up so early on Christmas morning. Well, apart from the dogs. These cuties shared my excitement.



A breakfast starter, you say? Well, a little slice of Stollen wouldn't go amiss...


AND LOOK AT ALL THE PRESENTS! Woohoo, Father Christmas came!


But the fam STILL weren't up. Even the sun was making an appearance by this point!


They eventually surfaced though. Well, Holly did. We then proceeded to wake the rest of the troops and crack on with the stockings. We Hosie siblings do it the same every year: I tend to get up first, then Holly, then we wake up Jamie and I bring everyone tea and juice. Because I'm just such a doting sister. Slash I just want to start the present-opening.

Having unwrapped our goodies, we all make our way to the kitchen in pyjamas, dressing gowns and slippers, natch. Breakfast time! Well, second breakfast time, in my case.

We do love freshly-baked croissants! While some of the team go for bacon and maple syrup, I tend to stick with the classics.


And no, I of course did not just have one.

Next up, MORE PRESENTS! Father Christmas was very kind to me this year...


I got this beautiful Kate Spade bracelet, which of course made it onto the Snapchat story. He's so clever, that Santa Claus - it was only a week or so previously that I'd pointed out said bracelet whilst in the Sloane Square branch of Kate Spade with Mama. Magic, eh?

I was also massively wowed by the snood I received...


Not only is it gorgeous, soft, cosy and warm, but my mother knitted it! She made one for Holly too. I didn't even know she could knit! To be honest, when I read the label I thought "Who's Monica?" I thought Mum was joking when she said she'd made it herself. What a superwoman.

Aaaaalso in my Santa sack were these FABULOUS tan suede boots from Joules. They were indeed on my list (I'm not too old for lists, right?) and I laaaave them.


Oh, and I was lucky enough to get a Fitbit and a spiraliser too, so watch out for posts about those!

Thrilled with our prezzies, it was time to throw on some festive sparkle. In my case, anyway.


Polkadot tights out of shot. I love my family's reactions to my outfit. They were all along the lines of "Wow!" "You look, um, bright." "Lipstick." "That is so you." Poor guys don't know what to say. I roll with it. (More is more, am I right?)



I had sparkle on my face, my wrist, my ears, my nails, my shirt and then in my hand too.



Gotta love a bit of Champagne on Christmas day! We paid a visit to our delightful family friends where both the conversation and the bubbly was flowing freely. As well as homemade mince pies and all sorts of delicious nibbles.

Then we Hosies head back home to finish lunch prep. Being the wonderwoman that she is, Madre had obviously done mucho cooking in advance, but Holly and I are always on pudding duty.

This year we tried something new. I'm not going to be modest: it was a winner.

Enter, Baileys-brownie-banoffee trifles (our version of this GoodFood recipe.)



Oh ma days, it was so good. We used my sister's top-secret brownie recipe which probably made it to be honest.

We made a fruit salad too, because Christmas is obviously the day to be health-conscious. Ahem. (I ate about one mouthful.)

Holly and holly.
After watching the Queen's Speech, it was time to EEEAAAAAT!





This year we had goose. Now I'm not a goose girl to be honest, but with all the millions of trimmings expertly whipped up by Mama Hosie, I was happy as a clam. And of course, still managed to eat myself into a state.

We ate and drank and pulled crackers and played trivia games and charades and it was delightful.

Overindulgence may have occurred...


Quote Jamie: "Sometimes you just need to be at one with the floor." He was so right.

The rest of the day was spent opening more presents, eating Quality Street, playing with new toys, eating leftovers sandwiches (don't even ask me how), instagramming presents (on my part) and watching a spot of festive telleh.

Waking so early, combined with ALL the food and drink, not to mention mad excitement all meant that I was ready for an early night. So, feeling cosy in my new Christmassy PJs, I snuggled up full of Christmas cheer.


I'm not going to give you a run-down of our Boxing Day too as I know you don't really care, but I will just say that IT SNOWED! We were actually out visiting famalam, but luckily it was still there the next morning. And still is now, actually.

Tippy, our younger lab, is only a year old and had never seen snow before. IT WAS SO CUTE!

She was having the time of her life, so confused yet so joyful, the little scamp.


It's my favourite time of the year. Family, food and fun. The best. Over for another year though now, alas. To be honest I currently feel like "OK, summer now please."

I hope you all had wonderful, merry Christmases full of joy, love and sparkle.

Did you get anything nice?
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

My Telegraph piece: The 7 best things about going home for the holidays.

Yaaaaay! Super excited to share my second piece for the Telegraph with you all (which you can read on their website here.) Hopefully this is one to which lots of you can relate! I also love the picture the Telegraph editors chose - it's basically me all Christmas. Hope you enjoy it!



It’s been a long term and you’re exhausted. That could be because you’ve actually been working really hard for the whole time (final year students) or because you’ve been partying at the expense of sleep (freshers).

Either way, you’ve probably never felt so ready to go back to your parents, your family home and your teenage ways. Yup, we students are more than happy to revert to our childhood roles when home for the holidays. That's not to say we’re proud of it though.

Oh MUUUUUUM! Bring on the home comforts. Starting with a cup of tea and a homemade slice of cake, please. Brought to us on a tray.

Here are the best things about being home for the holidays:


1. Free food

And we’re not talking just any food here, are we? Well hello there, fresh berries, Green & Black’s chocolate and branded cereals. Sainsbury’s Basics, away with you!

What a delight it is to live in a home where the fridge and pantry are well-stocked. The comparison to your measly, mouldy food cupboard at uni (pasta and a tin of beans, right?) is, quite frankly, embarrassing.


2. Free booze

What’s that, parents? Would I like some wine with dinner? Well, OK then. Only if you insist. As I am of course a very sophisticated, grown-up, responsible drinker. Ahem. And this is the good quality stuff! *Drinks up*. Must remember to add Bailey’s to Mum’s shopping list. For, um, cooking purposes?


3. Trips to Waitrose for more than just a free tea or coffee

“I’m just popping to the supermarket,” says your mum.
“WAIT!” you cry, “which one?”
“Er, Waitrose,” she responds, somewhat puzzled.
“Then I’m coming with you!” you cheer, hurriedly getting up off the sofa and whacking on your most Waitrose-appropriate footwear.

The opportunity to fill up a shopping trolley with Waitrose goodies is too great an opportunity to pass up. And c’mon, it’s just such a delightful shopping environment! #astudentcandream


4. Watching TV on an actual TV from an actual sofa

Let’s face it: watching programmes and films that ALWAYS stop to buffer on your laptop gets a little tedious, doesn’t it? Also, bed-based viewing isn’t actually as comfy as everyone thinks.

There’s nothing more comfortable than the sofa you’ve sat/slumped/snoozed on throughout your formative years. Sky+, welcome back to our lives.


5. Having your laundry done for you

Let’s be honest here: your mum still does your washing when you go home, doesn’t she? And for an embarrassing amount of students, the poor lady will also be forced to deal with bags of dirties that’ve been sitting around in your damp uni room for weeks. Eww.

We all know it’s a bit (AKA extremely) pathetic – laundry isn't exactly difficult, and HELLO, we are the future intelligentsia and world leaders! Yet we’re shamefully happy to let Mummy Dearest take it upon herself to sort our smelly socks (boys) and handwash our sparkly dresses (girls… Mostly). Sorry, Mum.


6. Not having to cook yourself dinner every night

A lot of this comes down to food, doesn’t it? Although we manage to feed ourselves every day (rather generously for the most part), we have no problem leaving the dinner decisions to our parents most nights.

And then when we occasionally offer to cook for the family we feel like martyrs and expect mountains of praise for whipping up pasta. LOOK, PARENTS! I CAN COOK STUFF!


7. The dishwasher


No. Explanation. Needed.
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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmassy baking on Waitrose Cookery School's 'German Christmas Market' course


My day on the German Christmas Market course at Waitrose Cookery School was, somehow, even better than I'd expected. And my expectations had been high.

We'd been promised a day making my favourite German Christmas treats (Stollen, Lebkuchen and candied nuts), learning from expert chefs, using top-of-the-range cooking equipment, and also indulging in Wurst and Glühwein.

With a spiel like that, how could I NOT have been ludicrously excited?!

Baking + Germany + Christmas + Waitrose + Eating = five of my all time faves.

A few months ago I was kindly given a voucher for Waitrose Cookery School, but what with living in another country (year abroad innit) and then jumping straight back into final year of uni, the time to go to a course had eluded me. Although that's not to say there weren't plenty of courses I'd have loved to undertake - have a browse of the website... Waitrose do tons of awesome-sounding cooking courses.

However, I'm super glad I waited as I don't think any course could've been more up my street than 'German Christmas Market'. And if there's one other person equally suited to said course, it's my lovely friend, Emily.


You may recognise this smiley little lady from well, pretty much all my blog posts from back in Bavaria - we both lived in Bayreuth and had a blast. What's more, Emily is a total baking addict too. (The lucky lady had literally returned from a trip back to Bayreuth the night before. SO. JEL!)

Anyhoo, we met up at Waitrose Cookery School on Finchley Road, excited to be reunited and get stuck into the day's activities.


The Cookery School is, unsurprisingly, delightful. To be honest I'd expect nothing less from Waitrose. We were greeted by wonderfully friendly staff and welcomed into the stylish cookery school for the day.


Consisting of a large open dining room with a bar, a wonderful kitchen (more on that later), and a demonstration theatre, the cookery school is an extremely pleasant place to spend a day.

First up, we settled down to tea, coffee, juice, smoothies and a spot of breakfast while everyone arrived. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the course was dominated by the fairer sex. There was one man - I'm not sure if I should pity the poor guy or call him a lucky fella!

Breakfast munched, it was time to don our aprons and make our way to the kitchen. Oh, what a kitchen.


The large room is home to multiple counters, but they're well spread out so everyone has loads of space and it wasn't the least bit cramped.

What was a real treat throughout the day was having not only every utensil you could ever wish for to hand, but having top-of-the-range, stylish versions of them too.

And even better still was that staff would swoop in and clear everything away when we were done - no washing up for guests at Waitrose Cookery School! Living the dream.


Furthermore, all our ingredients were magically laid out in front of us before each bake, most of which were pre-measured out into pots too. I tell ya, I felt like Mary Berry on a GBBO masterclass.

The first task of the day was to make our Stollen dough, so into the demonstration theatre we went.


Here, our lovely teacher Russell talked us through everything step by step and made sure it was all clear. With a camera filming his work from above and two large screens playing it out to the audience, we could see his every move in detail.

What's more, we were each given our own Waitrose Cookery School binder containing all the day's recipes with space for notes.


I was particularly excited about making Stollen because a) I blimmin' love the stuff, b) I haven't had any yet this year, and c) I've never actually made my own. I'm also keen to get more into baking enriched doughs and the like.

There was a brief moment of panic when I thought we were going to be making Butterstollen (ie ohne marzipan) *gasp!* but thankfully the marzipan was brought out and it was indeed going in. Phew.

Having learnt a few tips and tricks for working with the dough, Emily and I got stuck into making our Stollen (we got to make a whole one each!), filling it with chopped hazelnuts, spices, amaretto-soaked dried fruits and marzipan. Dayum, I love Stollen.

The festive tunes were playing and we were having a ball.

We set the dough aside to prove and it was back to the theatre and onto the next treat of the day: candied nuts.

You may remember I went to tons of Bavarian Christmas markets last year, and one of my most vivid memories of them is the smell of these gorgeous, warm, sweet, freshly-roasted nuts.

I don't actually know if the method we used is the legit German way or not, but it sure wasn't what we'd been expecting: we essentially made a meringue mix with added cinnamon and salt, mixed through the nuts and baked, stirring it around a couple of times to break up the meringue mix.




The eventual result
It was a totally bizarre method but really worked, and we eventually ended up with gorgeous, spiced, sweet and salty nuts.

After all this hard work we were treated to a mid-morning break - I know, it was only mid-morning! It turns out baking can be quite quick when everything is laid out for you, someone else does the clearing up and you're working in pairs. Going back to normal baking at home is going to be rubbish now. (Ok, not rubbish, but not the same... Where are my staff?!)



It may have still been the morning but I wasn't going to say no to a cheeky cup of Glühwein or two. And a mince pie. Oh, and some grapes. Because, health.



The wine was beautiful and the mince pie was one of the best I've ever had (warm, natch.) The grapes were also firm and prime temperature, so all in all a pretty top-notch snack break.

Emily and I also got talking to a wonderful pair of South African ladies. Don'tcha just love meeting new people and making new friends with shared interests (ie. food)?

After our break it was back to the kitchen and onto the "Lebkuchen".

Waitrose called them "Lebkuchen-style" but I'll be honest: what we made was essentially gingerbread, both in flavour and texture. But hey, I don't judge. It's jolly hard to find the unique Lebkuchen spice mix in the UK.



I felt like the girl in this year's Waitrose Christmas ad at this stage...

Stollen proving, nuts roasted, biscuits ready for baking
While our biscuits baked, we shaped our Stollen ready for the second prove. Oh, the excitement!


And then it was lunchtime, hoorah! Having nibbled on sugary treats all morning, I was more than ready for something savoury. Despite not being the slightest bit hungry.

So, on lovely crockery we helped ourselves to Wurst (hiding under caramelised onions in the picture below), chips, Currywurst sauce, bread rolls and Sauerkraut. 


Although it wasn't traditional Nuremberg-style Bratwurst as promised, it was totally delicious. 

Of course, the wine was also top-quality and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting down, enjoying our lunch and chatting.

After finishing with teas and coffees, it was back to the kitchen! Not before another demonstration from Russell though, in which he showed us some tips and tricks for decorating our biscuits.


We made our chocolate icing and got stuck in to the decorating, just like little kids at Christmas.



See those expressions on our faces? Pure Christmas joy right there, ma friends.

And as you may be able to tell, I was quite pleased with my creations.



I've also decided I may have to invest in some edible shimmer spray, which I used to make my tree decorations silver and gold.

We made our Stollen glaze out of icing sugar and the soaking liquor from our dried fruits (they'd been soaked overnight in Amaretto!), and while still warm from the oven, our Stollen were generously dredged with the sticky, sweet syrup.



To finish the day, we were shown how to package up our homemade goodies and make them into pretty presents.

I'll be honest with you though: wrapping the Stollen was probably the most challenging part of the whole day!



SUCCESSSSS!


We were all awarded certificates too, and it's safe to say Emily and I felt pretty pleased with ourselves.



It had all been incredibly good fun!

Emily and I enjoyed ourselves so much and I cannot recommend Waitrose Cookery School enough. Granted, the day-long courses are a bit expensive for your average students, but I think they'd be amazing as a special treat.

Not only had we had the best day, we'd learned lots, made new friends and whipped up some scrummy creations to take home. I tell ya, I was so nervous my precious Stollen wouldn't survive the long journey home to Leicestershire.

Pleasingly however, it did.


After a generous dusting of icing sugar, I nervously sliced in...


Hoorah, it looks like Stollen!


It tastes like Stollen too!

The whole fam have been enjoying my German Christmas creations and it's safe to say they're not going to last long in this household...

Have you been on a course at Waitrose Cookery School or something similar?
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