Monday, 31 December 2012

A head start!

I'm getting a head start on the healthier eating/weight loss wagon this year...a one day head start, but a head start none the less!

I have spent the last couple of months taking it easy on myself when it comes to being sensible with calories and haven't always made the healthiest choices. By doing this I not only get to unleash my greedy inner self, but have had potential for gaining strength and muscle which is obviously amazing :-) of course this does mean you have to do weight training to get these benefits, and it's been a regular feature of my workouts! Yesterday I hit a weightlifting milestone, which felt amazing, dead lifting 85kg for 1 rep TWICE. Last week I struggled to lift 75kg once. Thank you christmas indulgence.

I don't weigh myself anymore (i haven't ever obsessively weighed myself, just enough to know which direction I was going in) but I can tell by looking and the tighter fitting of my clothes that the extra calories have done their job. Ok, my stomach is softer and my hips and legs more chunky. But guess what? I'm running faster and lifting heavier than ever, making it all worth it!

My next challenge is to maintain these fitness gains while getting my body into a fitter shape to match. Eating fewer calories, about 2000 calories- i would never deprive or starve myself - will allow me to shed the excess slowly to hopefully retain as much strength as possible as my muscles will still be well fed. I also hope that being lighter and having less heavy food to digest will help me get even faster and have more energy throughout the day.

I have a framework for my food all planned out which allows me to be flexible with my choices, and cook and shop economically. It is mostly plant-based, with vegan soya-free protein powder, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans and lentils as primary protein sources, though eggs and cottage cheese will regularly feature. Fruit or veg will be part of every meal, and I will not deprive myself of healthy fat sources.

My workout plan is yet to be finalised though. I want to do heavy lifting, running (sprints and up to 10k), spinning, yoga and tabata workouts. I just need to figure out how I can fit it all in!

How will you be kick starting your new year? Or have you jumped the gun, like me?

I would love to hear you plans and tips for keeping your new habits in check!

Happy new year!

Hannah xx

Friday, 28 December 2012


In the hope that I would mildly be able to keep my health in check over the holidays, I signed up a few weeks ago for the Elf4Health challenge, hosted by Lindsay and Elle. There are three cycles (we are currently in the third) and are paired each time with an elf to share our healthy journeys, help one another and report back on the various challenges set.

I was paired at first with Diana who was an awesome elf and we are still in touch. You can follow her blog Veggie Next Door.

Then I had a disappointing match 2nd time round, they didn't contact me much and only half way told me that they hadn't been able to and wouldn't be to participate...well thanks a bunch.

My third match (after having to be rematched after my initial 3rd elf could no longer commit) is Leila from Spinach and Skittles, and I think we are going to have a great time sharing the final week or so of challenges.

The challenges have consisted of fitness, healthy eating and healthy mind challenges, so for all round health :-)

Yesterday's challenge which I caught up with today was to write a gratitude list - 20 things I am grateful for. So, I wrote it and what? Do I bin this, frame this? I thought I'd share this with my readers, because after all, I'm grateful for you too!

Ok, it's a little bit soppy for me, but it think it's a good idea for me to shout from the rooftops of the Internet things that I am thankful for and happy about in my life! There's no shame in the things that make my life the happy life that it is :-)

Thank you!

Hannah xx


So it looks like we made it!

My Christmas, despite being far more sedentary than I had planned, was a fab one! I ate to delicious but gratuitous excess, and my stomach is not thanking me this morning. I whizzed up a vegan protein smoothie for this morning's breakfast, spiked to the max with superfoods to try to some how to repair the damage:

The goods - homemade nut milk, chocolate flavour vegan blend protein, purple kale, frozen strawberries, chopped apple, flaxseed, barley grass powder, and superfood xs powder.

Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of my Christmas and boxing day eats, however I think if i were to relive them (the quantity more than the choices) might make me a little queasy! However, it was every bit delicious and I definitely did not neglect my vegetables :-)

I was spoilt with some amazing health/foodie/fitness gifts!
- Some amazing trainers, that have hard but flexible soles ideal for weight lifting and spinning,
- A jacket for when I get running outside again
- A baby mp3 player, just for workouts
- Quinoa and millet
- Healthy treats like this raw chocolate bar
- Nutritional yeast. I need to experiment and then I will get back to you with a verdict!
- An apple chopper
- Sweetheart ramekins! Can't wait to bake with these

I was grateful to be able to spend so much time with mine and James' family and though it was relatively quiet, it was enjoyable and as relaxing as you could expect from families such as ours.

Hope you had a great time too! How's your recovery going? Any particular strategy?

Hannah xx

Monday, 24 December 2012

New workout: Tabata

**DISCLAIMER: this post contains no christmas content whatsoever. But in advance, i would like to wish you a happy Christmas and new year**

Lately I've had to squeeze in whirlwind 20 minute workouts due to my early starts at the juice bar and unwillingness to hit the gym when I'm tired after work, in the mayhem of peak hours.

Tabata (not sure how to pronounce...TAbata...taBAta....tabaTA???) is a method that's growing in popularity and is said to be THE way to burn fat and improve fitness in a minimum amount of time. You push yourself at a high intensity, with minimal rest for a range of exercises. It's kind of like the HIIT (high intensity interval training) of the circuits.

The format that I've been working with follows the same structure as the first one I ever did - one I followed on YouTube( Here's what I do:
- I select 4 or 5 exercises
- I perform the first for 20 seconds, then I rest for 10 seconds (the quickest 10 seconds of my life!)
- Do this 7 more times, so it lasts 4 minutes in total.
- I then give myself about 30-45 seconds to have some water and to allow my heart rate to become more comfortable
- Move onto the next exercises for 4 minutes each in the same format.

So what exercises can be applied? Because I've been working out at home without any equipment, the following body weight exercises have been more than sufficient:
- Jogging in place, high knees
- Free punches (into thin air...but if you've ever done boxing on Wii console, you'll KNOW this works your back)
- Press ups (from knees at the moment)
- Burpees
- Plank
- Push up plank
- Alternating lunge jumps
- Squat jumps
- Crunches or reverse crunches
- Tricep dips
- Mountain climbers
- Wall sits (I'm talking 90 degrees)

If you have dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, resistance bands then your repertoire grows exponentially. Seriously, you will never be doing the same workout twice, nor will you plateau as you are continually pushing yourself to your personal highest intensity.

And it will make you SWEAT! I could seriously rename this blog Hannah Does Sweaty...I should've taken a pic after my tabata this morning, and it was only a baby 16 minutes! Perhaps just a regular 'Hannah Does Sweaty' feature will suffice...

Have you tried tabata yet? Any tips or exercises you'd like to add?

(Happy Christmas)

Hannah xx

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Some kitchen experiments

I'm a hoarder when it comes to recipes from like-minded blogs! I favourite all the ones I think are doable, look tasty, and for which I already have most ingredients and can get the remainder with ease.

However, I often don't get round to any of them. Perhaps I am worried I won't do them justice, and I also like my kitchen routines as I explained last time, so deviating from my usual trends is a little disconcerting.

Stick with me on this, I have a cookie and a hummus recipe to show you!

But it's that time of year, may as well be 'cookie'mas, as every blog is laden with cookie recipes! I just had to find a 'too simple for anything to possibly go wrong' recipe to try, and thankfully this one seemed very promising. Just 4 ingredients, and I already had them ready to go.

I followed Caitlin's instructions exactly, though I omitted the chocolate squares on top. That niggling part of me that was worried I could STILL screw up made me too reluctant to potentially waste my precious dark chocolate. So they looked a bit naked, but I was happy with the taste none the less. The brown sugar nicely caramelised the natural peanut butter, and as my first time using a flax egg (or flegg?) I was impressed by how eggy it seemed as I added it to the bowl. I'm not sure what it added to the cookies but I wouldn't have risked leaving it out!

My technique for getting uniform shapes was to tightly pack them into a measuring spoon so they were perfect half domes. Trying to form the dough by hand was a crumbly yet greasy mess.

The texture was more crumbly than chewy, so if you prefer a chewy cookie perhaps adding some extra moisture (milk?) would help here.

It made a generous batch, so the danger here is eating the whole lot. But as the ingredients are relatively unprocessed and no unpronounceable extras, it's a preferable avenue to a whole box of chocs, or multiple slices of Christmas cake!

So, at this point I'm in an unfamiliar situation. I have a batch of cookies, which I never have, and a fridge depleted of staples...I ALWAYS have some form of dip or spread, perfect for lunch with some veggies and pitta bread. I had none, and no tins of chickpeas to make my usual batch. I did have a rather sorry looking lump of sweet potato though, and vaguely recalling a paleo recipe for hummus (paleo diets omit beans/pulses....I don't understand this!) got to work.

Dead simple.

Three ingredients:
About 300g sweet potato, chopped and steamed in the microwave until soft. Allow to cool.
2 generous heaps of tahini paste
1 generous pinch of cinnamon.

Blend in the food processor.

Slather on everything ;-)

So simple and creamy, high in fibre and beta carotene. Almost like eating dessert. Unfortunately lower in protein than usual. But we can make up for that later!

What have you been experimenting with lately? Broken any trends?

Bye for now!

Hannah xx

Thursday, 20 December 2012

I'm baaaaaaack!!!!

Hello strangers!

I know it's been a long time but here I am! While I was setting up my business I ended up far too distracted to keep a regular blog (or any blog, who am I kidding?!) and though I appreciate that would have been a great way to document our business start up, I just had so much on my plate and didn't have much motivation/energy to do much else.

I keep a blog for my juice and smoothie bar 'Applebar' but I wont really be able to post everything I want to say as its a bit too personal, so the obvious outlet for those posts is here!

So, the best way I can think of updating you about the food and fitness things in my life is a quick list!

I don't know about you but so often I find myself in a position where I recycle the same ingredients and cooking methods for a couple of weeks, get a bit bored of them and move onto something else. But right now, love food-life is ALL about the following few things:

- My slow cooker! Happy to just go about its business while I'm in Applebar, I can just bung in some veggies, pulses and spices, and come back to a warming healthy dinner with plenty of leftovers to save for another day.

- Pumpkin purée! I read a lot of healthy living blogs, most of which are American! They go mad for pumpkin from about mid-October onwards, typically purée-ing it and using it for soups, chilies and baking. I got the bug in November, made a huge batch of the stuff (in the slowcooker!), froze it and only just got brave enough to use it.
- Brussels sprouts! I think I'm the only person in my family who would be gutted of they didn't make our Christmas dinner table. But forget the boring tradition of boiling them to death, roast or sautée them until they deliciously start to caramelise. Toss them in a salad or pasta dish, add them to a sandwich and reap their nutritional benefits too (hello vitamins C and K!)

- Homemade raw bars! When I'm on the go, I love to grab a raw food bar. Like Nakd or Pulsin'. They taste so sweet and indulgent but they are actually filled with nothing but good. When I have time to make my own, I blend equal volume of dates and nuts to make a dough, pimped up with natural flavourings like cacao, vanilla, cinnamon etc....these recent bars also had goji berries and made use of the pulp from making nut milk...

- Yes, nut milk! I'm not wholly opposed to dairy, but in the morning it's just a bit much for my tum and I've since turned to making my own nut milks using guides such as this and whatever nuts I can my hands on (oh you know what I mean!!! Tut tut you dirty minds!)

- Coconut oil. I'm sure I'll do a whole post on this soon. It's so good for you and I'm loving putting it in and on my face.

So these are things that have been IN in my kitchen recently...but undoubtedly if you check back with me in a week or two it may be a slightly different story!

For fitness, the coldness has been keeping me indoors, either at the gym or in our flat. I've been enjoying:

- Interval sprints. These have me thinking 'oh god I'm gonna vom' and attract a few stares due to me thundering along on the treadmill, but they are a good way to sneak in a good cardio burst, and I hope they will improve my pace when I'm able to get outside for some 5-10k runs next year. I run for 30-45 seconds at at least 18km/h, take a breather for 45-60 seconds, repeat 8 times.

- Spinning class. A 60 or 45 minute class always challenges my endurance and I prefer the variance on the bike compared to the same time spent on the treadmill. Good music is a must though. A few weeks ago I had to endure an entire Flo Rida album. Just no.

- Weights, as always. I love being strong, though it's a shame I'm nearly always the only girl in the weights area.

- Tabata. This is my latest favourite and I will do a whole post on it soon.

- Occasional yoga stretches on waking. I can't make a class anymore but when I have time in the morning I find a few sun salutations and downward dogs centre me and remind me to take care of my body.

Thanks for coming back and reading, I hope it was worth the wait!


Hannah xx

Monday, 1 October 2012

Foodie Penpal #4

The Lean Green Bean

This is the forth month that I have been involved in Foodie Penpals. It started in the US thanks to Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean and is now hosted by Carol-Ann from Rock Salt in Europe. Everyone is assigned a another penpal to send a parcel of food treats to, and you will receive one form someone else. Even though I have been pushed for time this month I still wanted to participate because it's such a great way to find out about new foodie things and share my passion.

I received a parcel from Nicole and it was a little later in the month than usual which isn't a problem, though it does mean I haven't had a chance to try everything out yet! Here goes though:

The first thing I did was read the letter inside. I like to feel a little bit like I know my penpal and the personal touch of a letter is a lovely way to be introduced to the contents of the parcel and feel the care and attention that has gone into it!

To help differentiate the different items according to each described in the letter, they each at cute corresponding, fluorescent orange number stickers on! Here are the close ups so I can tell you about them in more detail:
At the top is a box of bouquets garni of Provencal herbs. Nicole used to live in Provence and told me that the flavours always take her back and I'm really looking forward to using these in a heart bean stew as the colder months draw in. In the small pot is homemade chili chutney, which apparently had an extra kick. It was a lovely balance of sweet and spicy and you can see how I have used it so far at the end of this review. There were also 2 fresh figs, bought from Borough market which is local to Nicole. The figs were perfectly ripe and I had them just as snacks, though I have been inspired to get some more and experiment with them a little.

Half in each photo, wrapped in cellophane and pink ribbon are homemade rocky roads. As they contained marshmallow I couldn't gobble the whole lot as marshmallows contain gelatin and are not meat-free, but I still happily nibbled around the would've been rude not to have sampled them! There was also a pot of 'Pumpkin seed mix' - pumpkin and sunflower seeds (though mostly sunflower seeds....not sure what Marks & Spencer were thinking when they labelled this product), but they are pretty addictive due to the more-ish soy seasoning! Lastly, was a lovely slab of cheese from the market. Seriously, I need to go to this market when I next go to London! I can't tell you exactly what cheese it was because I don't know, but it was like a mature, sweet, almost crunchy cheddar! So far, I have used it with my chili chutney to make 'pitta pizza' - chutney spread on each half of a split pitta bread, topped with the cheese and slices of portobello mushrooms and grilled for several minutes. It was one of the most satisfying lunches I've had in a long time.

I sent a rather hasty box to Sophie who blogs at who writes interesting posts about issues that many would tend to shy away from - definitely worth a read in my opinion!

If you'd like to take part, check out Carol's or Lindsay's blogs (depending on where you live) to find out more!


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bad bad bad bad bad bad blogger...

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to update to say that I've not completely fallen off the planet that I do intend to pick up my blog posts properly again, as soon as I have the time to, and the inspiration for new things to write about!

Things are pretty busy around here, setting up my new juice and smoothie bar. We have just about secured premises and some commercial equipment. It's taking up a lot of mental space and energy and there isn't much point in me posting a half-hearted blog.

When I get back to 'business as usual' (blog-wise) I will hopefully be able to regularly update you on my shop's transformation and some exciting recipes and nutrition info, as well as fitting fitness into a busy schedule, which I fully intend to do!

I will also be blogging as you'd expect me to at the end of the month for a Foodie Penpals reveal!

Hope you are keeping fit and well!

Hannah xx

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Recipe: Split Pea and Chorizo Soup

If you hadn't realised by now, one of the highlights in my food life is getting quality stuff from the farmers market. Last Friday was no different, and though I was pushed for time I came away with purple kale, a lentil-walnut ragu stuffed polenta, and a smokey spicy sausage of meat-free chorizo. The polenta and chorizo came from The Veggie Deli who I have mentioned on here before, and though I have had both of these products before, the chorizo I never quite managed to do justice. Here is what they say about it:

veggie chorizo, vegetarian and vegan, from the veggie deli
Not my picture - retrieved from
 "It's made from a mix of beans including aduki, red kidney and chickpeas, smoked paprika and our special blend of ten spices, with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, tamari, red wine vinegar, vegetable stock and wheat gluten." 

So, I bought some but still didn't have a clue how I would do it justice. Coincidentally, I also had a bag of dried green split peas (they were reduced!) but I didn't have a clue how to do those justice either. Then it clicked. Perhaps I had two loose ends on my hands that could be tied up deliciously together. Googling "green split pea chorizo recipe" threw up a load of soup recipes, and I used this one as my inspiration for the following recipe. The result was a super smokey, slightly spicy, healthful filling meal and if you can get your hands on some veggie chorizo (or meaty chorizo if that's your thing) then you might find this recipe is worth a go!

In other food news, I have been taking some of my favourite food blogs' recent recipes and trying them out:

This gluten free cauliflower pizza crust, inspired by Gluten Free Happy Tummy was made possible by discovering that James' mum has a food processor, meaning that I could blitz cauliflower to crumbs and form into a crust. Topped with peppers, onions, sugar snap peas and a homemade roasted tomato sauce, it hit the spot and I'll be making it again once my appetite for cauliflower returns (I had a few days of cauliflower overkill!)

I used the same homemade roasted tomato sauce when I made these sweet potato gnocci inspired by Running to the Kitchen

I will share the roasted tomato sauce in another post.

So, here is the split-pea and chorizo recipe. I hope you enjoy it if you try it!

Green Split Pea and Veggie Chorizo Soup (3 medium portions, or 2 big 'uns)

100g/1 'sausage' of veggie chorizo - Cubed
1 Tsp coconut oil - you may find you can omit this if your chorizo releases a lot of oil
1/2 large onion - finely chopped
2 Cloves garlic - minced
225g Dried green split peas
1 Mushroom stock cube - diluted in 1 litre boiling water (use vegetable stock if you can't find mushroom)
1 Bay leaf
1/2 Tsp Herbs de Provence
2 Carrots - Peeled, sliced in half length ways and chopped into thin diagonal slices

  • Tip the chorizo cubes into a pan and bring to a medium heat so the flavours and oil begin to release. Mine was quite dry so I added the coconut oil.
  • After five minutes add the onion and garlic and stir frequently for several minutes until the onion is softened.
  • Add in the split peas, stock, bay leaf and dried herbs and allow to simmer, covered for 1 hour 15 minutes. Stir a couple of times within this period.
  • Then, add in the carrots and allow to cook for a further 35 minutes.
  • Now, the split peas should be softened and the soup ready to eat - make sure you remove the bay leaf and season with pepper for an added kick!

 I'll have a few more food and fitness updates very soon!

Hannah xx

P.S. I'm sharing this recipe at Wellness Weekend and Healthy Vegan Fridays (hosted by Shelby at Everyday Vegan Girl , Gabby at The Veggie Nook and Carrie at Carrie On Vegan). - two awesome healthy cooking blogging events that I definitely recommend checking out for inspiration!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Foodie Penpal Reveal #3

The Lean Green Bean

This is the third month that I have been involved in Foodie Penpals. It started in the US thanks to Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean and is now hosted by Carol-Ann from Rock Salt in Europe. Everyone is assigned a another penpal to send a parcel of food treats to, and you will receive one form someone else.

This month I was ecstatically excited to be paired with Anna and Robert from Amsterdam. Don't get me wrong, I have received two gorgeous parcels from British penpals so far, but a box coming from overseas could only have added mystery.
The pair responded to my dietary needs and preferences beautifully with a variety of sweet and savoury treats and ingredients to inspire me in the kitchen.

The first things I tried in the box were the raw chocolate and fig cake. I have had raw chocolate before but this has a new and intriguing texture for me as it contained whole nibs of cacao, rather than having been completely ground down and formed into a bar. Cacao is full of antioxidants - no guilt whatsoever tucking in! The fig cake is I believe a Spanish treat. All it contained/contains is dried figs and almonds, in a similar way raw energy bars combine dates and nuts. It tasted super luxurious for something so simple. It just goes to show that refined sugar isn't necessary for sweetness.

In the sweet corner is also some organic cacao powder. I don't want to embark on using an over ambitious recipe to use it because of it didn't work out I would hate it to go to waste. I think using it simply in oats and smoothies will be the safest way for me to enjoy it...but who knows, I might man up and get experimental! Anna and Robert also included a recipe for vegan chocolate one way or another I'll be venturing out of my comfort zone as I rarely make desserts - somehow I can never get them right. Hopefully this time will be different!

In the savoury corner are some noodles, stock, alfalfa seeds and curry paste. The noodles are 'cha soba' so they have green tea in! Anna and Robert told me that they have a very interesting flavour and as I love green tea, I couldn't wait to try them out (look out for future posts to find out what I do with them).

There is also organic mushroom stock which I have never heard of before, though I know the Kallo brand. Can't wait to experiment with it!

The curry paste went down brilliantly in a curry with butternut squash, peppers, chickpeas and spinach. Even my meat-loving Dad went back for seconds!

And last but not least, the alfalfa seeds. Now this is way out of my comfort zone. I would love to grow my own fruit, veggies and herbs but have never had my own garden in which to do it. Apparently alfalfa seeds can be grown in a jar in the house to produce sprouts that can be used in so many ways and are super healthful sources of fibre, protein, and vitamins B and K (read more here). I followed this youtube tutorial on sprouting. I will of course be posting a verdict once they are harvested and eaten as the process can take some days!

I sent a parcel to Cara who blogs about her amazing cake baking at Bake yourself crazy, though she hasn't posted a reveal at time of writing this. Fingers crossed she'll post soon! 

So, as you can see I have been a very lucky girl once again! If you'd like to take part, check out Carol's or Lindsay's blogs (depending on where you live) to find out more!


Saturday, 25 August 2012

3 Day Juice Detox - The Verdict

For the last 3 days I have followed the detox plan laid down in the JuiceMaster book Keeping It Simple! Over 100 Juice & Smoothie Recipes. Here is what the plan looked like:

As you can see it is a rotation of five juices and smoothies, as well as hot water with lemon/lime and I also incorporated herbal teas.

Beetroot featured heavily and though I generally detest beetroot (along with olives and coffee...I know, I know, sorry coffee lovers) I don't mind it at all in juices and sweetened with other fruits and veggies.
Beetroot stained fingers!
The one above is actually the H2O detox - about half as much juice as the 'meals' topped up with water to be a more refreshing drink that you can sip on in between meals. It has beetroot (surprise), pineapple, apple and lemon in!

I kept up my program during an overnight stay in London by preparing my drinks in advance and bottling them in any flasks/shakers I could get my hands on. The one above is a very filling beetroot, apple, spinach, parsley and cucumber juice blended with avocado (the Beyond Detox). It is seriously creamy, with plenty of powerful ingredients and just enough sweetness from the apples.
This one is the Detox Special. Probably my least favourite because the vegetable content (more beetroot, celery, cucumber, yellow pepper and broccoli) was a bit higher than the others, so less sweet. But even though it was the first one, it wasn't too much to put me off.
This one tasted far to good to be on a detox and unfortunately the Super Detox Smoothie only featured once. Freshly extracted pineapple juice blended with blackberries, blueberries and natural yoghurt...I'll leave it to your imagination!
Here's another demonstration of my preparedness ;-) When I returned from London on Saturday morning (I made my breakfast the day before to have on the journey) I decided that it would definitely be easier to make the rest of the days juices in one go and store them in flasks again. Tip: as long as you put a squeeze of lemon in, a juice it can keep well for much longer. This Dreamy Detox isn't quite what you'd expect from the name. Instead of a velvety smooth, creamy gentle flavour, there is a real punch of lemon and ginger, which is juiced along with apple cucumber and celery.
All together then!
 So how has it gone?
  • On day one I was aware of my energy levels dipping around midday and some mild headaches which are apparently normal and indicate withdrawal from stimulants like sugar and caffeine.
  • Since then, no problems at all in terms of energy or headaches, and a notable improvement in
    • bloating
    • my skin
    • stomach cramps (they are better than they were since limiting sugar but not gone all together)
    • generally feeling lighter
    • feeling more in control of my eating habits and better able to recognise hunger
Oh, and I said, I was overnighting in London, so as to collect Emma early from the airport as she returned home from her incredible stay in the US. In fact, you must check out her blog about her travels here. She told me she'd bring me back some American goodies and I am hugely grateful for what she brought me :-D
Hopefully these will be familiar to any of my American readers? So excited to start trying these once I'm back on the food tomorrow!

Bye for now,

Hannah xx

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Let's Get Juicing!

So, I hinted last time about something new going on in my life career-wise. Well what it is, is that James and I are sick of job hunting and the thought of having to work for someone else kind of leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Instead, we have been beavering away, researching and planning our own business - a juice and smoothie bar!

Juicing has been on and off in my life for about 6 or so years. My mum used to make us fresh green juices and smoothies to have with our dinner and I also incorporated it when I was 18 and realised that my diet could do with cleaning up and my body could afford to lose some weight. I also juiced a little at uni...until my cheap juicer blew out!

Now the juicer (or rather, my mum's juicer) is back with a vengeance to give me a kick up the backside to up the fruit and veg ante, and also as a key lab apparatus for our enterprising experiments! We have a few winners so far, but there's so much else for us to think about and do! Property, equipment, suppliers, funding....the list goes on, and I keep getting waves of uncertainty and feeling that it's just too big a project for someone like me, so used to being told what to do. Thankfully James has a degree in accounting and finance and his parents have been running their own business for almost 30 years so we shouldn't be completely at sea.

I realise that I haven't updated on food for a while. Well, as of today and for the next 3 days (if all goes to plan) I won't be having any! I want to really immerse myself in juicing so that I can really appreciate and advocate its power, and so I'm on a juice detox until Sunday morning.

Today seems to involve a lot of beetroot, which is supposed to be great for building up your blood, and other cleansing ingredients like cucumber, celery and apples.  For dinner I will be having a smoothie - juiced vegetables and apples blended with avocado, and there will be a few other smoothies for me to indulge in and help ensure I get sufficient fibre, fat and protein. So far I'm not feeling any more hungry than I would typically feel when I anticipate my dinner, and though I'm not craving anything, it's that impulse for experiencing different  food textures that I'm missing. I also experienced some mild headaches around midday which is supposed to be a typical reaction as the body withdraws from caffeine and sugars.

How I am going to work this around my exercise is something I'm a bit uncertain of. Today is easy because it's a scheduled rest day. But I'm scheduled to do spinning and body combat classes on Friday and Saturday and the fact that I'm possibly going to London tomorrow afternoon is a bit of a head-scratcher. And keeping on top of my juices will take a bit of planning...

I'll update again here about how it all goes with the juicing and any other exciting progressions, business-wise!

Hannah xx

Monday, 20 August 2012

Exercise Review

Yesterday marked my last day on my lifting plan based on this program from I adapted it to incorporate more cardio and the fitness classes I love.

So how did I get on?

  • I really liked being able to have some structure in the lifting sessions, and this allowed me to see where I was progressing and what needed more work. It kept me focused and able to get the most out of my time on the gym floor as there was less drifting in between exercises and less time wasted pondering over how much weight and how many reps.
  • I kept a diary to remind what to do and enable me to quickly get on with an exercise as I could easily refer back to last week's to see where I was at. For example, it made it easy for me to tell if I was ready to bump up the Kg's, if I could quickly read that last time I managed all the reps and sets. Unfortunately, I don't have the best handwriting, which is apparently made worse by exercised muscles:

  • I noticed improvements all round in strength - obviously a great result. 
  • For the most part I enjoyed the program. However, the back workout seemed a bit rubbish as I never really felt like it was being worked out and I never experienced any soreness after.
  • Most of the weeks I didn't totally stick to original plans, in terms of which workout fitted which day. Life happens, and sometimes you need an unscheduled rest day!
  • During the last six weeks I didn't run long distances as much as I should've, though I have still kept up my cardio endurance doing spinning, and my latest exercise love - body combat! It's essentially doing a load of moves from different combat disciplines to music. It really gets your heart rate up and my back felt worked after this (unlike the actual lifting day!)
  • I also questioned the body part combos that were in program, i.e. chest and shoulders, and biceps and triceps. and whether or not this way was giving me optimal workouts and recovery. I will be switching this round in my next program to find out.

So. My new program, courtesy of James who is a self-taught, self-proclaimed expert (well, I suppose he has the body to show for it), looks like a real challenge, and I feel I will struggle to sustain it for six weeks....well we'll just see how it goes.

And the weekly schedule looks like this

As it is Monday today, I tested the water with the leg workout. Leg workouts usually get my heart rate up a lot higher than other body parts, and James' workout got it even higher still! I added on 10 and 5 minute jogs before and after to get warm and relieve the kind of 'tense' feeling I'm often left with after.

It actually went very well and enjoyed mixing up the different number/lengths of set and really mixing up different strength training approach. This kind of integration of different methods is apparent across the program and I really think it'll help keep it fresh....maybe I'll last six weeks after all!

Elsewhere in my life, things have taken a rather unexpected turn with respect to job hunting. More on this in another post, I just felt like leaving this on an unrelated cliff hanger...I know you'll be gagging for more ;-)

'Til then,

Hannah xx

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Recipe: Stuffed Round Courgette

Last weekend I blogged about the beautiful produce I bought at the market, including locally grown vegetable beauties:

See that round green guy in the middle? That's an actual courgette. Today's post is the recipe I invented to stuff him, and and how I used the stuffing I had to spare.

Stuffed Round Courgette (for 1)

1 Round courgette
1 Tsp coconut oil
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1/2 Tsp chili flakes
1 Stick celery - finely chopped
1 Small carrot - finely chopped
1 Clove garlic - thinly sliced

1/2 400g tin of kidney beans - drained
1 Small handful of chopped walnuts 

  • Preheat the oven to 180C
  • Cut off the top of the courgette and scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon, saving the flesh in a bowl. I hollowed it out until the shell was just under a centimetre thick.
  • Replace the top as a hat and place on a baking tray in the oven for about 30 minutes
  • Make the filling by melting the coconut oil in a saucepan (medium heat) and adding the cumin and chili. Add the celery and carrot when the spices are fragrant. After about 5 minutes the vegetables will have softened and you can add in the garlic for another minute or two. Keep stirring the mixture.
  • Roughly chop the courgette flesh (depending on how roughly it was scooped out) and add to the pan. It should add a lot of moisture and cook down quickly
  • When the courgette has mostly broken down stir through the kidney beans so that the mixture is fully heated through. I found that I needed to add a little water to keep the mixture from becoming too dry.
  • If you like, season at this point, and stir through half of the walnuts.
  • Once the courgette has had its 30 minutes, take it out of the oven and get the grill heating up. 
  • Remove the courgette hat and place the courgette, up-turned, on a few layers of kitchen towel to drain out some excess moisture for about 5 minutes.
  • When the courgette has 'drained' fill it with as much of the mix as possible and top with the remaining walnuts.  Pop it under the grill to reheat and crisp up a little. I put the hat under the grill beside it, just for the hell of it.
  • After a few minutes (or before it starts to singe) take it out and put the hat back on (the courgette).
  • Serve up!
As I hinted, I had some mixture leftover. Keeping it in the pan I added a generous handful of baby spinach leaves and warmed it through until the spinach had wilted. The moisture from the spinach turned the leftover mixture quite sauce-y, and reminded me of creamed spinach!

All together, looking rather sparse in such a big dish....

My next mission is to figure out an inventive way to use my aubergine and yellow tomatoes. I would like to try making baba ganoush I think....and perhaps a pasta sauce will do the yellow tomatoes justice!

'Til then,

Hannah xx

P.S. Totally forgot to add that this recipe is being shared over at Healthy Vegan Fridays hosted by Shelby at Everyday Vegan Girl , Gabby at The Veggie Nook and Carrie at Carrie On Vegan. Be sure to check it out! 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Fitness update and some recent inspirations

OK, so no food waffle today (pun not intended).

My exercise life has been going strong for the last couple of weeks since having to pull out of the 10K event. I am still following my weight-lifting plan and just coming to the end of my fifth week. Strength has been gradually increasing and my recent successes include squatting 55kg (plus the bar) on the Smith Machine and bench pressing a 25Kg barbell, both completed to 3 sets of 10 reps without failure. When/If I ever get a training partner or spotter (James) I will focus more on training heavier and to failure.

This time next week I'll have a think about where I can change things up, taking up the things I have enjoyed about the workouts and mixing in some stuff I have researched. I enjoy keeping my body guessing as this helps to avoid plateau and it keeps my interest in keeping fit alive. I can't imagine the gall of 'having' to keep up with a regime that bored me, life is too short to spend hours doing things that you hate.

I went to another combat class yesterday and I'm pleased to report that though I can feel a little soreness in my back, it's nothing like the sensation of having had a stampede trampling on my back that I had last week! I have also been working on flexibility and core strength through practising yoga poses, both in and out of class. It's so refreshing to take some time to really get to know how your breath and body feels and the sensation of relaxation and energising afterwards.

I haven't done any proper distance running (over 30 minutes) for a couple of weeks, though I have done interval training on the treadmill, working at 1minute:1minute intervals of 8km/h and 15km/h (10 repetitions)  in my last session which I was very happy with, and of course hour long spinning classes do well to build cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

So that's the fitness side of things. I also love reading other food and fitness blogs on my google reader and it's the many blogs I read that inspire me to blog myself. Here are some recent highlights for me - it's a mixed bag of health, food, fitness posts - but I hope you find something here to inspire you too.

This looks like an awesomely simple yet versatile recipe that I would love to try once I get my hands on some split peas!

I'd love for BBQ season to come around again to make up one of these and make up some Tzatiziki to smother it with!

Some great tips that I will be considering when revising my workout plan next weekend

The creativity that goes into every single recipe on this blogs just wows me every time. Those shells are made from Cauliflower?! What the?! I love to think that I would get round to making these but in the meantime I will just gawk and wait for someone to make them for me!

Did you see this documentary on the BBC? "Eat, Fast and Live Longer" explored the impact of fasting on prevention of preventable diseases like cancer and cardiovascular illness, based on the effect that fasting has on cellular activity. The 5:2 (5 days a week eating however you want and 2 days at a low calorie intake) was deemed the most preferable way of getting these life-enhancing benefits. Jacqueline has written about how she has been inspired by the programme. I must add, though, it's not something that I will be dabbling in, at least not for a while.

There has been a lot more on my reader that has made me drool inspired me later but at risk of this becoming another foodie post I guess I should hold back :-P

My last couple of weeks have also been dominated by coverage of the London Olympics. Haven't team GB been doing so well?! In fact, each and everyone of the competitors are inspiring - I thought that I train hard but their schedules are mind-bogglingly intense. The fact the team GB have been doing so well proves interesting to me from a Psychological perspective - that bridge between body and mind, the way that the motivation of a home crowd can help you tap into that extra 10% of exertion to get that medal. This has clearly been at work and the athletes are quick to observe and mention this when they reflect on their medal-winning performances. Here are my stand out performances:

  • Jessica Ennis - Won gold in the heptathlon, including event performances that would've been medal-worthy in their own right. The dedication of training yourself in seven disciplines for one medal, rather than one event like most other!
  • Nicola Adams - Winning the first ever women's boxing Olympic gold. A historic moment in women's sports and will be sire to inspire interest and uptake in the sport for other women. And such a lovely lady too!
  • Laura Trott - Double gold at the velodrome and after all the injury/medical trauma she has been through, at just 20 years old????!!! A real inspiration (I may or may not have pretended to be her in my last spinning class...)
  • Mo Farah - Double gold in 5 and 10Km races at a pace that I could only dream of sustaining for about a minute...just incredible.
  • Oscar Pistorias - The South African's participation in the men's 400m semi and 4x400m relay final has broken boundaries in this Olympics and his no excuses, no boundaries attitude is what everybody could do with remembering once in a while. I think this picture which has been storming the online world sums it up well

Hope this has given you something to chew over (oh, fine, yes that food pun was intended...) and that you're able to take some inspiration from this Olympics, just as I am.

Hannah xx

Saturday, 11 August 2012

My week in food and a new staple recipe

Damn I've been a naughty (AWOL) blogger this week. I intended to share a few foodie/fittie posts with you this week but the impulse to write never quite grabbed me *sigh*. I've been job hunting A LOT. And when I'm not doing this, I'm in the gym, buying/eating food, reading the posts of other lovely bloggers or being totally absorbed by the olympics. As I'm sure you don't want to hear about the job hunting (and God knows, I don't want to write about it) I'll write a little about the foodie-ness of my week, and update on the fittie-ness, reader-ness, and olympic-ness side of my week tomorrow. I know I said that my next post would be fitness related....but it's my blog so there ;-)


This week has seen the birth of my addiction to baked and stuffed sweet potatoes

Above is potato loaded with houmous (my homemade formula pimped up with coriander) On the right is a potato stuffed with green lentil and mushroom ragu (I'll pop the recipe below.)

I love serving them with a MOUNTAIN of greens/purples as it makes the meal all the more filling and virtuous.

So what else has been on the menu....

Overnight oats at breakfast with a lovely big mug of green tea. I've been adding in the fruit in the morning, typically frozen mango or banana and as many berries that I can heap into the jar. It fills me right up and has meant I can get my oaty fix without breaking into porridge the sweating for gym, I think!

This week has also played host to some exciting snacks including sugar-free banana chips, multi-seed and carob 9bars (like chocolate), and the obligatory dark chocolate squares.

And my food highlight of the week was the farmer's market! I treated myself to a Caribbean Bajan Pie from the veggie deli (you can drool over this and their other delicacies here). It is based on a Caribbean favourite - macaroni and cheese pie, but instead uses orzo (last time I had this was in Greece) and cheese-like tofu. I really enjoy the spicing of, kind of curry-like but exotic at the same time, and I topped mine with hot pepper sauce as was recommended to me. Alongside a salad made with the lettuce I also bought at the market, it was a very satisfying dinner!

I also bought these veggies (purple kale, lettuce, yellow tomatoes, aubergine and round, yes round, courgettes)....I wonder what I will do with these! I really love my farmers market, it's just a shame that it is only twice a month. I have otherwise been mostly getting fruit and veggies from a local green grocer where I can get bundles of stuff for a pound or so - buckets of broccoli/cauliflower/cabbage, punnets of avocados and pairs of mangoes!

Oh, I'm sorry, did I promise a recipe? It's oil-free, vegan, sooooo easy to make and extremely versatile. As you saw, I served mine on a baked sweet potato, but I used up my remaining servings by serving it with some toasted rye bread smothered in avocado, and just as it was with some green veggies. I can also envisage it with pasta as a bolognese sauce, between pasta sheets for lasagna, or between aubergine slices for mousaka. Ready for it? Here you go then!

Green Lentil and Mushroom Ragu (3 Servings)

1 Medium onion - chop in half and slice
1 Bay leaf
300g White mushrooms - thickly sliced
1 Clove of garlic - sliced
400g Tinned tomatoes
400g Tin of green lentils - drained
1 Big handful of chopped fresh basil

  • Steam-sautee the onion and bay leaf. That is, get a small amount of water simmering in a pan before tipping in the onions. Stir until the onion is soft and translucent and bay leaf is fragrant.
  • Add in the mushrooms. These will release a  lot of moisture, so you shouldn't need to top up the pan with water, though add a splash if the mixture starts to stick.
  • When the mushroom are slightly softened add the garlic. Keep cooking altogether until the mushrooms seem completely cooked through.
  • Tip in the tomatoes and green lentils.
  • Cover and simmer altogether for about 10 minutes, then continue to simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes or until you are happy with the sauciness of it - not too watery. Be sure to stir through the basil for the last couple of minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper if you like, and then serve!

See, I told you it was easy, and I hope that your mind is buzzing with ideas of how you could use this in other recipes or as a base to make it your own.

I am submitting this post to two blogging events - Healthy Vegan Fridays hosted by Shelby at Everyday Vegan Girl , Gabby at The Veggie Nook  and Carrie at Carrie On Vegan and to Wellness Weekend over at Diet Dessert and Dogs. These events always give me inspiration and keep my motivation to be healthy high over the weekend.

Hope you've enjoyed this very food and picture heavy post. Here's to something a bit less food obsessed tomorrow....maybe ;-)

Hannah xx