Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Big Juice Spring Clean!

Hello, long time no write!

I just wasn't quite feeling the writing groove. And it doesn't seem right to me to force myself to do something I'm not that motivated to do.

Apologies in advance, this post is pretty text heavy and I only got a few pics because I wasn't really thinking I'd blog!

But I have come round to the fact that my challenge over the past week was definitely worth a post. I took part in the Big Juice Spring Clean, a global plan orchestrated by Jason Vale (aka Juice Master - I did his 3 day cleanse last year), lasting 5 days on freshly made juices and smoothies, herbal teas, a touch of manuka honey and an emergency hunger banana! The five days were free of refined sugars, grains, animal products (besides honey), alcohol, caffeine, refined fats...basically anything that requires extra energy for your body to process. This encourages your body to tap into nature's energy (and your own fat stores) and redirects energy expenditure to cleansing your system and repairing disease.

Each day, Jason released recipe videos to walk through how to make and the benefits of each recipe. The whole process was simplified further by the fact that each day had only 2 recipes, each to be repeated in the day, so busy bees who don't have round the clock access to a juicer (as I do!) can simply double batch their twice daily recipes in advance. Also included on the plan was a ginger shot (half an apple juiced with as much ginger as you can cope with) first thing - down in one! An awesome immunity boost and kick start to the day, and it'll be something I'll definitely have again, along with several of the plan's recipes.

A beautiful blend of vegetable juice, sweetened with apple and pineapple, and whizzed up with avocado!

Participants also received daily videos from Jason recorded that very day - he answered questions and shared tips depending on the feedback he received on Facebook and twitter, as well as shout outs and success stories. This gave the whole program an awesome sense of community and the momentum to carry on.

Many people experience low points on programs such as this. As the body detoxes, withdrawal symptoms can occur, but the trick is to have faith in the process and not blame the beautiful juices for your symptoms because it's purely the toxins (sugar, chemicals, alcohol, caffeine - drug-like foods) leaving the body. If your body has come to rely on false, synthetic energy, it's going to have a bit of a tantrum until it comes to accept your new energy source. I was fortunate to experience nothing on the withdrawal front - I suppose that not being big on refined food, alcohol, caffeine beforehand helped!

So, what kicks did I get out of it? Well, the actual plan was based on Jason's forthcoming book '5lbs in 5 days' so many jump on the wagon for weightloss reasons. I'm not a big weigher - when you enjoy lifting weights, the scale is never a true reflection of your body's size, shape and health - so I don't really know how much I lost. I did do a measure though around my waist, hips and the flabbiest bit of one of my thighs. I lost 3, 4, and 1.5cm from these areas respectively, plus my abs(ish) have popped back to say hello and my jeans are fitting perfectly again.

Another thing I wanted to achieve was to relearn hunger signals, recognise false hunger, and sense when I am satisfied. I had gotten into a habit of feeding false hunger, purely because I was expecting to eat at a certain time of day, and not really listening to my cravings so I was never truly satisfied. So did I? So far, I certainly think so. I was 'planning' another liquid start to my day today, then really what I truly craved was a crunchy salad with creamy tahini dressing and gooey grilled sweet yeah, I had that for breakfast and it was beautiful! In fact, I left about 20% of the dish because I was full, and I'll have the leftover later today as and when I fancy it.

As I am writing this (2 hours post salad) I feel that I may be getting hungry again already, but I'm not sure it's the true hunger I experienced before tucking into salad round one, so that baby can wait a little longer!

A lot of people don't embark on fasts/juice plans because of fears about how it fits with their workout plan. Of course if your withdrawal symptoms are zapping your energy or making you grumpy, a workout won't be fancied, but Jason encouraged daily sweaty exercise throughout the week. I made 4 workouts in the 5 days and didn't feel remotely affected by the lack of solid food. In fact, I was flying in last night's hour of spinning, and managed weight lifting on day 1, maintaining my lifts and even upping some of the weights as I had planned last week.

I needed this by day 3 - super sweet thick, dessert-like smoothie of apple juice, frozen banana, frozen berries and gelled chia seeds.

Another reason people don't hop on the wagon is because they believe they will be nutrient deficient...where will I get my protein/calcium/blablabla. The fact is, live nature can offer us all we need, and juicing extracts nutrients from a plant's fibres so we get as much of it as possible. I'm talking amino acids (I.e. foundations of protein), vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, soluble fibre. Sure it won't be as much protein as typical diets (about 10%) but a) we often overestimate how much protein we require and b) it's only 5 days, you certainly will not die or lose significant amounts of muscle (though if your body fat is already really low, then I wouldn't guarantee that a degree of muscle wastage wont occur). Besides, as Jason argues, when did you really last care about fulfilling your nutritional quota? Though i know some of my MyFitnessPal friends do care and strive to meet them everyday, as do I a lot of the time, but in the main, people really don't give a shit...that is, until you tell them to get on a juice plan! It's just another excuse, juicing challenges your state of well being, your addiction to drug-like foods...who want to admit that their life isn't thriving, or that they make self-sabotaging food choices, or are physiologically addicted/dependent on junk, and have that challenged by some else's lifestyle choices. Here's Hannah the psychology student: when we come across something that challenges our self-perception, something that we are in denial about, or jealous of, we look for excuses or use defence mechanisms because change is scary and we want reasons to stick with what we are familiar with. To undertake a drastic lifestyle change requires a good deal of mental effort, being honest with yourself, and A LOT of picking yourself up, dusting off and trying again, and it's only when you truly value the outcomes of a healthier lifestyle that all that hard work is worth it.

Did I have more energy in general? I think so. I felt kind of bouncy/buzzy, but couldn't really vent it in the day time when I was sitting/standing in a quiet shop (pants week this past week, grrrr....), so most of the week kind of felt like a repressed fuzziness...hard to explain...but the second a customer came in I felt wildly enthusiastic and chatty!

Jason is running the plan again next Monday - Friday (kind won't be 'live' but all the resources will be made available) so google The Big Juice Spring Clean if your keen to find out more and register your email address to get the daily videos. Another key to success would be to pick up one of Jason's books to help maintain the right mentality to see you through your junk- free week.

Anyway, I I that's all I have to say about my week so far. I might try and review how well the effects are sustained over the coming weeks too. And if you have any questions, please leave a comment!

Bye for now!

Hannah x

Thursday, 21 February 2013

In need of a PLAN

In recent weeks, I have seen myself in a bit of a rut.

I'm struggling tremendously to switch off from business stuff, and feel very much pulled in different directions - wanting to keep everyone happy, realising I can't, giving into the me-time that I want but then not embracing it due to feelings of guilt.

Lately, it's been very easy to be lax in my workout commitments and make shoddy, mindless food choices between meals.

I'm a person who likes PLANS. and not just 'up here' plans *taps head* but on-paper/screen plans so I can see and review my thoughts and expectations.

To find a happier place, these are the areas of my life that I think if I do a touch of planning and goal-setting, I will regain some focus and reap some rewards to make me feel happier:

- A food 'formula'. I don't want to get bogged down in 'diets' or meal plans that leave me bored and unsatisfied. I think that finding a formula for meals that allows for flexibility within my mostly plant-based preferences, that also supports my fitness goals is the challenge here, and I've started working on this already.

- A workout schedule that I know I can commit to, but with wriggle room for when life happens. There's so many exercises that I want to be able to do but I don't want to burn out. My work hours don't accommodate much more than an hour anyway either in the early morning or late evening, and I don't want to burn out or be counter productive. Switching up my routines every 6 weeks might be a good way to keep things fresh and keep my performance improving rather than stagnating.

- Sign up for some races! Signing up for the 10K last year was one of the most motivating and focussing things I've ever done, and I REALLY want to get some more in the bag this year...I have a time to beat!!!

- Business 'to-do' list. There are always little things that need doing round here. Orders, recycling stuff, cleaning jobs, emails, calls, financial stuff....And it's amazing how easily it can build up, overwhelm me and really stress me out to the point that it simply doesn't get done! I want to be able to achieve one or two 'to-do's a day, too stop the build up, and also feel like I have accomplished something even if the shop hasn't performed well that day.

- Give more to this blog. I love writing here but finding something worth writing about can be tough, and sometimes the things I do want to say are difficult to put into words. I would like to work on some regular features and link up more with other blogging parties so I have more chance to reflect on my week with some purpose, and feel a bit more sociable too!

I think that's all for the moment...a kind of 'to be continued' post where I will update with my planning progress...details on my food 'formulas' and workout schedules and perhaps some 'sign up' updates.

'Til then, I guess!

Hannah x

Monday, 11 February 2013

Hummus Time!


I have expressed my love for hummus, especially homemade hummus in the past. It such a versatile thing - a sauce, a dip, a spread, a well as being a great vehicle for your favourite spices and vegetables. It can be sweet or savoury, high in fat or low in fat, a great source of plant based protein and fibre.

Yesterday, I deconstructed hummus and used the components to enrich a cauliflower soup, with results that really impressed! It tasted, dare I say it, cheesy, despite the fact that there was no dairy or cheese flavoured ingredients. But maybe I've just forgotten what cheese tastes like, I've not had it much since the time I inadvertently ate a non-vegetarian Camembert...I felt so bad when I realised.

Cauliflower has been tipped to be the new kale, it's versatility dubbing it the vegetable of the year. In this crazy world of blogging, it being eaten raw, roasted, pureed, juiced, replacing pulses and grains, in pizza crusts, and mashed as 'potatos'. So, I bought a cauliflower on the weekend and thanks to all this inspiration, I have a few recipes/experiments up my sleeve, so watch this space. It's a particularly good vegetable to get in at this time of year, being rich in vitamin C it'll ward of those nasty colds.

However, I felt bad for kale being shoved out of the spotlight, so kale still has its part to play in today's recipe. Instead of blending it into the creaminess of the soup, allowing shreds of steamed kale to peep through throughout the bowl gave an interesting change in texture, and allowed each spoonful to vary in terms of creamy/cheesy/kale-y flavours.

I don't typically get to eat a hot lunch these days as I can't leave the shop floor to cook, so I rely on savoury muffins, stuffed pittas and cold millet/noodle/quinoa bowls. But with James able to mind the shop, I was able to cook some soup for yesterday's lunch!

The recipe is below :-)

Catch up again later in the week!

Hannah xx

Hummus-inspired cauliflower soup (serves 1)

1/4 head of cauliflower - include some leaves and roughly chop
1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas
300-400ml of vegetable stock - depends on how thick/thin you like your soup
1Tbsp tahini
The juice from 1/4 lemon
1 handful shredded kale
Sprinkle of paprika

Heat the stock on a medium heat and add the cauliflower and chickpeas. If you are pushed for time, part-cook the cauliflower in the microwave before adding to the hot stock with the chickpeas.

After 5 minutes (or when cauliflower is softened) use a (hand)blender to blend the soup into a creamy texture. If it is a little watery at this stage, that's ok.

Steam (or microwave) the kale until it is as cooked as you like it.

Add the tahini, lemon juice and a pinch of ground paprika to the soup and stir continually until it thickens to your preferred consistency. Try not to let it boil.

Add your cooked kale to the soup to gently incorporate it, and ensure it is all completely warmed through.

Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with a little more paprika or chilli flakes if you like it spicy!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Power of Plant Protein


It's been more than a week since I last wrote, and a busy week it's been as always!

These days, my days are starting around 7am - I get my self ready, see James off, and setup the juice bar. Between 8.30am and 6pm I am on juice and smoothie duty, then I head over to the gym. Before I know it, it's 8pm and I have just enough energy to whip up something for dinner (usually frozen from the freezer from a slow cooker batch), watch a little telly or read and bed between 10-11pm.

It doesn't leave much room for inspiration or motivation to write, but I really want to keep up with this!

Today I wanted to share with a recent experiment - some raw energy protein 'bites' that I've been munching on an hour or two before working out.

When I ran out of a chocolate flavoured plant-based protein powder blend from Myprotein. I wasn't sure what to do. I've been trying to keep my dairy intake to a minimum of late. The chemicals and cruelty involved in manufacturing dairy is putting me right off, so whey protein is not something I feel comfortable consuming, yet the flavoured plant-based blends are expensive and difficult to find. Unflavoured single-source plant protein powders like hemp, pea and brown rice are easier to find and less expensive - this seemed to me to be an opportunity to experiment with my own blends!

I went with brown rice and pea protein powders (the cheapest 2 options) and I've been using half a scoop of each in post workout shakes. I need to work on more palatable things to mix them with, but that's a work in progress.

Why not just pick one single-source plant protein and have done? Well, the amino acid profile varies between sources, so to get an ideal balance a blend becomes a powerful alternative to the profile in animal proteins.

To be clear, soy protein powder is not an option for me. I've tried it before and all that happened was a degree of stomach upset and skin breakouts. Plus, I have read how it can effect hormones and the development of cancers. I know there is research to support both sides of the debate, but I'm not going to take my chances!

Back to today's recipe - energy protein 'bites'. I liken them to chocolate fudge *yum*. The texture of plant protein powders can be a challenge, though the gooey texture of puréed dates did a good job of disguising it. And a rich cocoa flavour that tastes bad for you whilst not doing any harm at all made them a greatly indulgent snack!

Tomorrow, I will be seeing how well my new powders blend into porridge - the Myprotein blend did a great job of this, better than any of the times I tried to mix whey into oats, so I have high hopes.

Tomorrow is also my 2 year 'veg-iversary'! That's 2 years of meatless eating, no cravings or slip ups whatsoever.

In the meantime, here's the promised recipe and as always let me know if you give it a go or have any other tips for plant-based protein powder!

'Til then!

Hannah xx

P.s. I'm sorry for the lack of links on this post. I'm writing from the blogger app on the iPad which doesn't let me link up!

Chocolate fudge-like protein energy bites (vegan and GF option)

1/2 cup of dates - soak in hot water to soften and reserve the water
1/4 cup oats - use GF if you need to
1/4 cup of plant protein powders - I used unflavoured pea and brown rice powders.
2 Tbsp cocoa powder - unsweetened, raw if you have it
1/2 Tsp vanilla essence
1/4 Tsp salt

Pulse the dates in a food processor to get a paste.

Add all the remaining ingredients until they form a kind of sticky crumb.

To get it into a 'dough' or fudge, add some of the date water, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture gathers in the processor, though you don't want it too watery.

Form the mixture as you please and freeze to firm them up. I made 9 'bites' with this recipe, and enjoyed 3 bites per serving, packing about 17g of protein each serving!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Another recipe? I am ON FIRE!

Well, not even I could have predicted that I'd be sharing another recipe so soon after Saturday's noodles!

But I am! I had some parsnips that wanted using (is it just me, or is roasting parsnips to PERFECTION virtually impossible?) and yet again, the drive to come up with something that was 'cold lunch' friendly made me get creative with far more success than I'd usually expect.

I have heard of but never once before tried a savoury muffin. But I could totally see how they could be a great vehicle to squeeze in plenty of nutrition for a quick 'grab and go' lunch. And with the busier than usual days my business has been seeing lately, this is exactly what I need.

I used this carrot and coriander muffin recipe as a basic blueprint for my recipe. It is paleo, gluten-free and dairy-free. It would be great to experiment with egg substitutes to see how well this recipe 'veganises' too. If you experiment and find out before me, do let me know!

Other future experiments would/will include the addition of spinach and/or nutritional yeast.

I ate one warm from the oven, and another cold today at lunch, both tasted fab! Oh, and the parsnip flavour came through just enough for me to REALLY enjoy them, rather than the touch-and-go experience that comes with my family's history of parsnip preparation.

They are not a low calorie choice, but they will supply you with a good dose of healthy fats, fibre, protein and veggie goodness. To be honest, they could easily be fitted into a calorie controlled diet as they do such an amazing job at keeping you full. Your chances of reaching for mid afternoon calories deplete considerably when you eat a nutrient rich diet :-)

So, if you're here for the recipe, I suppose I had better hand it over!

Savoury Parsnip Muffins (6 muffins).

5 Small parsnips (2 large would probably be enough if that's what you have) - peel and grate them
3 Free range eggs
100g ground almonds
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tsp baking powder
1/2 Tsp dried basil
1/2 Tsp of any other dried herbs/flavours - I sprinkled in some Penzey's mural of flavour herbs that Emma brought me back from the US. Other complimentary flavours could include nutmeg, dill or thyme.
A small handful of walnuts/other nuts/seeds to scatter on top

First, heat your oven to 180 and grease/line 6 muffin 'holes' (is there a technical name for them?)

Gently beat the eggs, then stir in the grated parsnips. Then add in the rest of the ingredients (except the nuts/seeds) and combine until you have a slightly lumpy batter

Divide the mixture between the 6 muffin holes (the more I write it, the more wrong it seems!) and artistically scatter with nuts/seeds.

25 minutes in the oven should see them rise just enough and cooked through - check with a skewer/pointy knife. Leave them in the tray (is muffin tray hole more appropriate?) for a few minutes before letting them out to cool properly on a cooling rack, unless you want to eat them warm of course!

I'll catch up again in a day or two, my dears! Hope your are all keeping fit and healthy and warm!

Hannah xx


Saturday, 26 January 2013

Finally, a RECIPE! Coconut Almond Thai Noodle Sauce

Hello :-)

I've not posted a proper recipe on here for ages! Most of my latest kitchen creations just haven't been recipe share material - despite being tasty, they have typically been a cobbled together mess from my fridge and cupboard staples. But I finally got something together this morning while I was desperately scratching around to assemble ANYTHING faintly palatable for my lunch!

Working in my juice bar all day means that I have to prepare lunch in advance and refrigerate it til I scarf it down on the sly between my lunchtime customers. I have relied a lot on pitta breads, which I love, but they aren't the most creative option and are rather easy that it leads me neglect the stuff at the back of my cupboards. That changed this morning.

A can of coconut milk has been calling my name from said cupboards for a while. I've resisted opening it til now...once it's open, I have to use it - then there's the risk that whatever I try to make won't live up to my expectations and that would make me sad. But I finally sucked it up and got over myself as I have done in the past.

I open the can. I knew to expect a layer of coconut cream and skim this off to save for baking (YES YES YES). I started skimming...a bit deeper....deeper.....until the final inch of the can which broke through to a small amount of coconut water! Right.....I guess the freezing cold temperatures in my flat must have had some effect. No matter, I just dumped the entire contents in a dish and softened it a little with a fork until it looked vaguely usable.

I also have a few bundles of buckwheat soba noodles in my inventory. I love that I can get these super cheaply from my local Asian food shop, and as noodles go, they have minimal ingredients and a good amount of protein.

Also in my culinary inventory.....lime, ginger, dried herbs, almond butter, soy sauce, frozen veggies, garlic....mmmm, perhaps hold the garlic given James' latest complaints of me stinking permanently of garlic. Well, that's hummus I guess :-P

This recipe might be a bit more follow-able if I lay it out in a normal format! Here you go:

Coconut Almond Thai Almond Sauce (with noodles and veggies)
Vegan and GF (check your noodles are GF)

Serves 1*


1/4 400ml can of coconut milk (or 100ml of whatever it was I had after the aforementioned mashing)
1 Tsp natural almond butter (I bet peanut butter would work well too)
1/2 Tsp grated ginger root
1/2 Tsp dried basil (I expect coriander could work too)
1 Tsp soy sauce
The juice from 1/4 of a lime

60g Dried buckwheat noodles

As many frozen veggies as you like - I had a carrot, pea, sweet corn and green bean mix.

First prepare the noodles til soft, by boiling over the stove, or immersing in hot water from the kettle in a shallow dish (covered). With the kettle method, I find it helps to drain the noodles after 3 or for minutes and then repeat with fresh hot water, to stop the noodles getting starchy.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, blender, or as I did, in a clean protein shaker cup with an immersion blender(!) whizz all the sauce ingredients together. If your coconut milk/cream is really thick, thin with a little water. Easy.

Cook your frozen vegetables - I steamed mine in the microwave, then rinsed with cold water to prevent them over cooking.

Combine the 3 components together and eat straight away, or cover to save for lunch like me as the noodles are perfectly enjoyable eaten cold. The texture is quite thick and claggy, I actually found that aspect kind of comforting.

*one thing though, unless you are really hungry (like me), it probably makes too much sauce for some. Feel free to share the same quantity of sauce between 2 servings of noodles and veggies to make enough for one other lucky person :-)

I was so pleased to be able to get a lunch together that I am happy enough with to share with you! It really hit the spot at lunchtime, and the fresh, clean ingredients gave me that clean-eating halo.
I am proud enough of it that I will share it over at Wellness Weekend and Healthy Vegan Friday.

Do you have any other cold (unusual) lunch options you'd like to inspire me with? Comment below!

Speak again soon,

Hannah xx

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Being 'weird'

Hello again :-)

After my run of posts at the weekend, I have found myself low on inspiration for posts again....kind of. I think I'm also running low on the confidence to post anything I want on here, yet I SHOULD be able to do that with utmost confidence, it's MY flipping blog!

It's the same kind of lack in confidence in something that that's been niggling me for a little while now, and probably for a long time before that, I just didn't realise it until recently...

I too often feel that the differences in my lifestyle compared to most people (what I do, what I eat) are looked down on, or people think of me as strange because of my habits. I get really upset and feel physically stressed when I feel I am being judged as weird or perceive pressure to conform to more typical habits. I want to be me, but there is a barrier that makes it frightening to fulfil it, and I need to start breaking this down.

Why shouldn't I be me? Why can't I chose to workout alone rather than slump in front of the telly with my family? Why shouldn't I openly prepare whatever food combinations I like and eat them in front of other people? (For example, serving curry on noodles, blending greens in a smoothie, and stirring egg into my porridge - which IS lush, I swear!)

The truth is, the only reason I don't always be myself is because I'm scared of being the weird one. For example, it took a LOT of guts for me to 'out' myself as vegetarian, and it took the distance of me being away at university to finally cut out meat and then tell the parents over the phone a few weeks later. Being different was scary, I'm the only person in my entire family that doesn't eat meat (that's taking it as far as 2nd cousins guys, after that, I don't know).

I often catch myself apologising or having to explain away my lifestyle choices. I shouldn't have to do this. I want to start having more confidence to openly live alternatively, and not have my habits dictated by what is and isn't 'normal'.

I'm not sure what my next steps are to achieving this kind of confidence, though. I suppose just keep on doing what I do, resisting the barriers, and eventually those around me will come to accept my unusual habits as typical to expect from me. My brother has severe autism and learning difficulties - we don't expect 'normal' from him and we all embrace the characteristics that we know to be typical of him even though we don't behave in the same way.

Ok, it's an extreme comparison, but I'm just waiting out for the day for when those around me accept my 'weirdness' as normal and don't bat an eyelid or expect me to justify it....

....Or, perhaps, they already do, and I just need the confidence to realise that others accept me.

If it's the latter (and I grudgingly suspect it may be!), then I need to work on my confidence. Any tips?

Thanks for reading my little vent of frustration :-) I'll be back with something fitness/food focused soon!

Hannah xx