Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Foodie Penpal Reveal

The Lean Green Bean
This has been my second month as part of the foodie penpal scheme - it pairs foodie bloggers and readers so that everyone sends and recieves a box of foodie related treats.In the UK, Carol-Ann hosts, but it was originally started in the States by Lindsay. If you want to find out more click on the button above :-D

Today I am sharing the treats sent by Jenni - check out her blog, she has home cooking sorted and takes great photos too! So, here's what the box was like:

Soynut Mix
  • I had the Kallo mini rice cakes there and then - they were salt and vinegar flavour so they had that great savoury tang and they were made from whole grain rice so guilt-free! Such a great alternative to crisps, definitely something to bare in mind next time I'm looking for lunchbox food.
  • The soynuts (in the pink bag) were an absolute hit! Soynuts (like chicknuts) are oven roasted beans and I keep meaning to make my own but never get round to it. These ones were mized with wasabi peas and fried corn had a sweet and spicey flavour. The protein/carb ratio was 1:1 so a great meat-free snack that boosts protein without a carb/sugar overload - win!
Oatcakes and cottage cheese
  • The oatcakes are another awesome snack that are free from refined sugar - just rolled oats and olive oil and salt. I dunked them in cottage cheese for a quick and filling lunch.
  • The reggae reggae seasoned cashews and peanuts were great - I've not had cashews for so long and had forgotten how creamy and satisfying they are. And the seasoning really hit the spot where hot and spicey is concerned!
  • Jenni kindly included a recipe for vegetable tikka masala (a foodie penpal rule is to include something that is hand written), and she also included the spice mix and a little balti bowl to eat it out of. I did this the day I recieved the box as I'd been craving curry and had everything to hand. Jenni didn;t say how many the recipe was for but I just had the whole batch to myself (*oink*). It was mild yet flavourful and definitely filled me up without a nasty bloated feeling. And it was so packed with veggies that this was right up my street! She also included some caraway seeds which weren't in the recipe so I haven't used them yet but when I find a recipe that inspires me to use them (and I've never used them before) I will share :-)
Veggie Curry Mountain in a Balti Bowl
 As you can probably tell, I've had another thoroughly enjoyable month as a foodie penpal. I sent a parcel to Anna who has posted her verdict on her brand new blog!

It's not too late to sign up for next month, so get involved!

Hannah xxx

Monday, 30 July 2012

Total Warrior 10K

As promised, this post will be to share a bit more about my next event. I got involved when a friend of mine whom I haven't seen in years put out a suggestion on facebook to take on the Total Warrior 10K challenge in the Lake District, to fund raise for the National Autistic Society. My friend is a support worker for the charity, helping those with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder have a better quality of life. As my brother has autism and we are lucky enough to be supported by services and caring individuals like my friend, I wanted to give something back and support her, just as much I wanted to support the charity itself.

Now the event isn't called Total Warrior for nothing. 

The Total Warrior challenges are not your standard trail runs. The Total Warrior team has worked with ex-military personnel to bring you the ultimate test of strength, stamina, agility and mental determination. The unforgiving Lake District terrain along with our specially designed hardcore obstacles, will mean success is about survival and not speed. So forget about breaking records and bring everything you have to cross the finish line to become a TOTAL WARRIOR! (http://www.totalwarrior.co.uk/index.php)

I think it's quite a bit like the Tough Mudder events in the States (which is coming to the UK next year by the way...on my Birthday!!!). At the beginning of the month I took part in my first ever race, a 10K, and I was so nervous. But it was so fun and ever since I've been pumped to do an event again. Throw in the prospect of working as a team through some actually insane obstacles and I am BUZZING! Even better, James is on the team. I suspect that his strength will come in handy, and though he isn't a runner, I don't think it'll make much difference because a lot of the course is too tough for most to run anyway. 

The training suggestions included strength training, interval training and running. This is basically my workout regime and has been for months, so I didn't feel the need to train specifically for the event.

All that is left to do is work out what to wear ;-)

Anybody else done a crazy event like this? Any tips?


Hannah xx

P.S. Apologies for the lack of pictures. I don't want to be accused of stealing, but I suppose I can show you the poster that can be downloaded from the website

Sunday, 29 July 2012

There ain't nothing wrong with a little (bump and) grind.

This week I have been grinding like crazy. You see I want to get the most out of my seeds. Or flax seed to be more precise.

Some seeds, like flax, need a little help to unlock their benefits. The good stuff like omega 3, fibre, protein and antioxidants (or check THIS for its full nutritional profile) are trapped by a rather sturdy shell that, unless you are able to grind each seed with your teeth, will go straight through you (a little mental imagery for you there....).

The good news is, that once they are ground up you can absorb all the nutritional benefits and you also have a far more versatile super food. For example, you can incorporate the powder into cakes, breads and cracker recipes, and mixed with a little water can apparently provide a vegan egg substitute - I can't wait to try these other options out.

Up to now though, I've stuck to grinding my seeds  only for my breakfast porridge. Before, I did this by soaking the seeds to soften them before whizzing them up in my blender for a green breakfast smoothie. But lately I've been craving porridge for breakfast and while I still wanted to include the seeds (flax and sunflower) I wouldn't be able to reap their benefits if they were added whole.

I did some research, and I could've just bought to ground flax seed to add to my breakfast straight from the pack, but I also learnt that it works out a lot more expensive to buy ground seeds, and flax rapidly loses its potency when it meets the air because it oxidises. Therefore, an open pack of ground flax wouldn't last at its best for long.

So, I bought a grinder to do it myself! A really basic electric coffee grinder, and as long as it lasts, it should pay for itself. Plus I have freshly ground flax every time, and it takes less than 10 seconds to do and is much easier to clean than a blender after making a smoothie :-)

The main reason I started incorporating flax seed into my diet was for their anti-inflammatory properties. Since I was about 17 I have been prone to digestive upset - random episodes of excruciating stomach cramps keeping me up at night feeling nauseated and sometimes throwing up too. A bit like a migraine but the pain is in my abdomen rather than my head. I have been scanned and tested for anything the doctor could think of but nothing significant came up. So, I have been taking matters into my own hands and since I have converted to eating more cleanly and incorporating anti-inflammatory, high-fibre foods like flax seed, my episodes have become more and more infrequent. When I was 18 I developed a kind of arthritis in my knee which the doctors again couldn't quite explain. I'm fully rehabilitated now and my knee and other joints rarely give me any trouble, and this is another reason I believe anti-inflammatory foods are so important, for me at least. And if I needed even more reason to include highly anti-oxidant foods into my diet, the suggestion that they have anti-cancer properties, especially since my Mum's illness, is pretty important to me.

OK, pity parade is over.

The bottom line is a) flax seeds are good guys out to get the bad guys and b) get grinding. I also hope to use my grinder to make spice mixes from whole seeds - I just hope I will be able to clean it well enough that my porridge won't taste of curry.

Oh, and before you think I've moved away from green smoothies...no way! I'm reinventing them as a post-workout meal with soaked chia seeds (they don't need grinding), blended with berries, yoghurt, spinach and barley grass (another of my anti-inflammatory treasures).

Hope you have had a good weekend, I had a rest day yesterday but a more intense high intensity interval training (HIIT) and lifting day today. I'm still keeping up with my programme and have had minimal shuffling of the training days this week which has been good for my focus. I'm keen to keep on top of everything again this week as on Saturday I am taking part in my next event - a 10K assault course. I will share more about this with you tomorrow!

'Til then,

Hannah xx 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Double Recipe Post!

Today I am spoiling you, and you are getting two recipes that I have recently made but not got around to sharing. First up, are stuffed cabbage leaves. I was given a lovely cabbage from James' grandfather and wanted to use it in a kitchen experiment. I'm never one for getting fussy over things like stuffed leaves or anything that requires attention to the presentation - one pot is more my style - but it definitely seemed the most inventive way to use it. To get a basic idea of how to treat the leaves and how to cook it all I found a recipe but I think I did a good job of making it my own - I subbed in my own mix of quinoa and mixed beans (soaked and pre-cooked a day before) for the can of rice and beans in the recipe. Here's what I did if you fancy having a go yourself:

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (serves 1)

3 Large cabbage leaves - be careful whilst pealing these away from the head
30g quinoa - Uncooked
120g cooked beans - any you like. This equates to about 50g of dried beans soaked overnight and boiled for an hour, or half a tin of cooked beans.
1 Tsp coconut oil
Half a red onion - Finely sliced
1 Tsp dried herbs - I used herbs de provence
100g tinned tomatoes  - Mine were arrabiata and so had extra chili chopped in, so feel free to add your own.

  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil and carefully put the cabbage leaves in so that they are totally submerged. Leave to blanch for about 5 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water so that they don't continue to cook and are easier to work with. If the stalks running through the leaves are thick, carefully use a knife toshave the stalk down so it doesn't protrude so much.
  • Meanwhile, saute the onion in the coconut oil and stir the dried herbs in. When they are translucent, add the quinoa and cover with water by about a centimeter. Quinoa can take about 15 mins to fully cook in my experience and you will need to keep a close eye on whether or not it dries out. Add more water if you need to.
  • Stir the pre-cooked/canned beans through the quinoa and onion mixture. You could also season at this point and add in any herbs you like.
  • Spoon a third of the mixture into  the centre of each leaf and roll them by first folding in the sides and rolling them up (sorry, I realise that I should've put in a photo as it's kind of hard to describe). Put rolls in, 'seam' side down into a pan large enough to fit all the rolls in the base.
  • Thin out the tinned tomatoes with a little water (a couple of tablespoons should do) and then pour over the rolls.
  • Bring the pan to low heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Like the quinoa, keep an eye on the pan for moisture to keep the rolls from sticking.
  • Serve up with any side you fancy, or just simply on their own.
I quite enjoyed these, and it's safe to say I was very proud of how they turned out, i.e. intact. Next time I will definitely look into adding more flavour as they were a little bland, by perhaps adding herbs, adding spices to the onions, and some bouillon when cooking the quinoa.

And your second recipe.....

Yesterday afternoon I verged on a food rut. If I'm hungry in the afternoon and now that I need a smallish meal to carry through a workout and onto dinner I'll have something easy - banana toast, cottage cheese, dark chocolate. But I didn't have any of those things to hand and I had the time to spare so I decided to cook something with the odd veggies I could find. I went for soup because it seemed the best way of incorporating the lentils and veggies I had to hand

Pea and Lentil Soup (serves 1)

50g Dry red lentils - Rinse throrougly
1/4 Tsp turmeric - Optional
1/3 Vegetable stock cube or 1/2 tsp of vegetable bouillon
Small handul of shelled broad beans
1 Spring onion - Roughly chopped
1/2 Cup of frozen peas
1 Tbsp fresh mint - Chopped

  • Bring the lentils to a boil in enough water to cover by an inch and stir through the stock and turmeric (I nearly always add turmeric to lentils out of habit which is why they are randomly included in this recipe) 
  • After about 10 minutes of boiling add the spring onion and broad beans
  • Another 10 minutes later add in the peas and mint.
  • Cook all together for another 5 minutes or until the lentils have completely softened.
  • Transfer to blender and blend. Some blenders will need you to allow the mixture to cool before blending, otherwise there will be a soup explosion! Alternatively use a hand blender.
  • Once smooth, transfer back into the pan and bring the soup back up to temperature.
  • Season with salt and pepper if you prefer, and serve.
I really liked the fresh flavour and the bright green colour brought on by the turmeric. The lentils helped give body and a protein boost. Even Barney the dog was eyeing it up ;-)

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. This is the event's first week so why not support them by checking out the page or submitting yourself? Also I am submitting to Wellness Weekend over at Diet Dessert and Dogs which always gives me inspiration and keeps my motivation to be healthy high over the weekend.

Get in touch if you try anything out!

Hannah xx

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Beans :-)

Not going to post a long one tonight, but I wanted to quickly share a couple of my beany eats lately!

A few days ago I used up some leftover veggies and beans to make a chilli. Chilli is such an easy to make meal that can be made in bulk and what's more the leftovers taste even better! I've even been eating the leftovers cold because its been too hot for hot food, serving it up with some greens and mashed avocado.

Tonight everyone had BBQ and I was totally unprepared. I usually love having veggie skewers, halloumi etc but didn't have anything suitable to hand. Instead, James totally knocked me out with a beanburger which took well under 15 mins from start to finish. He drained a tin of mixed beans in tomato sauce (rinsing out the sauce), partially mashed them and gradually incorporating enough oats (ground and whole) to a doughy consistency. They were also seasoned with chili powder and mixed spice - strange but definitely worked! He coated them in wholemeal gluten free flour and fried 1 in a little olive oil for about 4-5 mins each side. The 2nd will be my lunch tomorrow! He can definitely cook for me again :-D

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Who Moose?

That's houmous....or hummus, as pronounced by Delia Smith...

So, today I made my best ever batch of homemade basic houmous, consistency-wise atleast. My reluctance to put sufficient oil in has often  resulted in quite a thick, chunky paste, that doesn't spread well and is a nightmare to get out of the blender. Today was different, I got over myself and cranked up the oil and got this smoothy creamy bad boy:

 I made a small batch (2 generous servings) blending up just half a can of chickpeas, 20g each of olive oil and tahini, a whole clove of garlic, about a tablespoon of water, the juice of half a lemon and a little seasoning. It was very garlicky, which I love, but if you're not a fan perhaps start with just a quarter of a clove and add more as you like. I think it also helped that I put the oil and tahini in the blender first to bring it together without the blades getting jammed with chickpeas.

You may notice from the photo that half the batch has been used. "How?" I hear you ask. Well I made an open sandwich (recipe below) and it was sooooo good. The nutty-ness of the mushrooms and toasted rye bread contrasted amazingly with the sweetness of the sauteed veg and the sharpness of the houmous. What's more, it would be super simple to make this as a closed sandwich, making it totally portable.

If you've not tried rye bread, as with anything, I recommend giving it a couple of tries before saying you don't like it. I didn't at first but now I think it's great. Look for brands that are free from sugar and uneccessary extra ingredients - I always go for Lidl or Aldi's rye bread as there are no refined flours or added sugars there (same goes for their wholemeal pitta breads - and they're amazing value). If you haven't checked the ingredients of your usual loaf, I would suggest that you do. You might be surprised by my amount of additives and uneccesary fillers in even 'healthy' breads. Oh, and it was completely vegan yet still packed 18g of protein. Who's asking where vegetarians get their protein now, huh?

Houmous and Sauteed Veg Open Sandwich

2 slices of rye bread - toasted if preferred. 
1 serving of houmous
1 Tsp coconut oil 
Half a red pepper
Half a small red onion
A small handful of dried mushrooms (about 10g) - I used portobello

  • Melt the coconut oil in a frying pan and bring to a medium heat. Toss in the veg (including the mushrooms, there isn't any need to soak them) and sautee them until the onions have turned golden and smell caramel-y
  • Meanwhile, toast the bread if you prefer, and smear with houmous.
  • Top the sandwich with the veg and dive in :-)
I will also be sharing this with wellness weekend, a sugar- and meat-free recipe event that is always exciting to be a part of.

Happy lunching,

Hannah xx

Thursday, 19 July 2012

My chia seed and kohlrabi discoveries

I can't belive I haven't blogged since the weekend!!! Where the hell has this week gone????

So, I have a new health-fix in my life - chia seeds. It turns out these guys are a superior source of calcium, fibre, protein, omega 3, antioxidants and an array of vitamins and minerals. I learned that here. They can be eaten raw but I like to soak my seeds, and chia go the weirdest gel-like texture when soaked that is ideal to thicken smoothies and puddings, for example. I made this green smoothie with the chia seeds, spinach, yoghurt, blueberries and barley grass. It tasted rather 'green' but it really had that feel-good after effect!

I have also made it into a kind of pudding, soaking the seeds in yoghurt for a couple of hours and then topping with fresh slices of pear. The seeds weren't 'bitty' or 'seedy' at all, and gave the yoghurt a smooth texture and seemed to me to take away some of sourness plain yoghurt can have.
chia pear pudding

Tonight I finally got around to using the kohlrabi from the market. I had some kohlrabi, I had some chickpeas. Googling these ingredients together threw up the most perfect, easy meal: Kohlrabi and Chickpea Stew. I followed this recipe to the letter (though I halved it and had it all to myself - YUM!) so I won't bother regurgitating it (....I mean the recipe). It was so delicious, though very spicey (my chia pear pudding did well afterwards as a fire extinguisher), and it turns out the kohlrabi has a flavour rather like broccoli stalks, which is unsurprising given that kohlrabi, like broccoli, is part of the brassica family. The stew had a very North African feel which reminded me of a recipe for Chachouka that I had read about in my Hugh Fernley Whittingstall book, which can also be found here. Chachouka incorporates an egg in the centre of a stew mixture, so to up the protein in my dinner, I served up my stew and made a little well in the centre and cracked an egg inside, cooking it together in the microwave for a few minutes. I was rather pleased with how it turned out :-)

In exercise news, I have been keeping up my lifting program and I'm steadily noticing improvements each time, particularly with my shoulders. It may go a little pear-shaped tomorrow though as I am travelling 200 miles to go to my graduation and 200 miles back again, meaning I'll miss my usual spin class and my scheduled back workout. There's a spin class at 7am which isn't wholly out of the question, though I think I'll see how I am in the morning ;-)

Speak to you again on the other side, when I'm officially a graduate!

Hannah xx

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Spinning, New Veg, and a Recipe!

Ooops, said I would blog yesterday but I got lazy after spinning lastnight and didn't.

I think my new spin instructor has an actual mission to spin us into oblivion, literally EVERY 30 seconds it's a quarter, half or (God help us) a full turn on the resistance dial, and we're only told to take it down one or two full turns between exercises. My resistance dial actually maxed out, and at one point I could barely get my pedals spinning! If you have no idea what I'm on a about, below is a pic of what the bike looks like, and that little red thing is the dial that you turn to adjust the resistance/how hard it is for your legs to push, simulating different hill difficulties.

I always feel like I've had a very thorough workout though after spinning, so although it's hard work I can rather enjoy putting in the effort - it makes you feel like a total machine!

I also did my back workout according to my new workout plan, taking notes and adjusting the weights to find where my starting point is. I'm working at around 20-25Kg (including 2 x 10kg dumbbells) for back work at the moment.

Since I missed Pump on Thursday, I took the Pump class that was on this morning. It was exactly the same routine as the last 2 times, but I am noticing an improvement, especially in the shoulder routine, as I am lifting heavier plates more for the most part of the exercise (lateral raises and shoulder presses holding plates etc). They may only be 2.5kg plates but at a gazzillion reps, it's very hard work! As my shoulders are disproportionately weak to the rest of my body, I'm glad to be seeing some progress :-) My next aim is to bump up the weight on the barbell for the chest exercises.

In foodie news....

Last night I had my first use of the Giant Beans I brought home from Greece . I mixed them up with some quinoa, grated carrot and courgette and blanched chard that I bought at the market.

You might be able to see a purple-ish stem there - that's from the chard. I've never tried it before but it's a lot like spinach and can be used in smoothies too. I couldn't resist the lovely purple and yellow stems :-)

I also bought another vegetable that I have neither seen nor tasted before - a kohl rabi! Again, I couldn't resist its purpley colour, and I was told it's a little like a cabbage-y turnip, and excellent chopped up in bean stews. I think I know what my culinary challenge for the week will be!

Speaking of my challenge to try something new each week, I present my first successful attempt at preparing a meal with tofu in. I did this earlier in the week but have saved it for the weekend so that I can share it over at wellness weekend which is a wonderful opportunity for bloggers to share their clean, meat-free kitchen creations!

Tofu Kale Scramble with Sweet Potato Chips (for 1 hungry person!)

1 small/medium sweet potato - clean and chop into thick-cut chips (or fries for any American readers!)
Drizzle of oil/oil spray
140g of drained, pressed tofu - crumble up
50g kale - washed and chopped into strips
Half a red pepper - cut into dice
Small handful of button mushrooms - about 6 or 7, cut in half lengthways
1 garlic clove - slice thinly
1/4 tsp each of tumeric, cumin and hot chili powder

  • Heat the oven to 180C while you prepare your sweet potato. Spread the chips out onto a sprayed baking tray, or coat them well in a drizzle of oil and put them in the oven. These will need up to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness.
  • Heat a non-stick pan (add some oil if your pan isn't non-stick) and sautee the pepper and mushrooms, and about 5 minutes later add the garlic.
  • When the garlic is fragrant add the crumbled tofu and the spices. Mix them well until the tofu is coated in the spices (and it's yellow from the tumeric!)
  • Heat the mixture thoroughly, stirring frequently and then add the kale and a little extra water (about a tablespoon) if it's dry.
  • Cover the pan and allow the kale to steam for 5 minutes if you like your veg with bite, a few extra minutes if you prefer softer.
  • Season according to your taste and serve with the sweet potatoes.
Hope you enjoy it if you try it!

Hannah xx

Thursday, 12 July 2012

New Workout Regime

For about the last week, I've felt my focus on health and fitness drifting. Not that I'm wanting to be unhealthy, I guess its just other stresses in my life have left my need to be fit and healthy a lower priority.

My workout schedule hasn't had much attention for a while. I tend do to what I feel like doing, or work on exercises/body parts that I haven't done for a while, often faffing around wondering exactly what exercise I should be doing, at what weight/no. of reps/intensity etc. In some ways I can see that this could be a beneficial approach as you are listening to your body to choose what workout is appropriate at that given time, and it prevents your body getting used to things as there is no predictable routine. On the other hand, it makes it hard to track your progress as none of your workouts are comparable, it is easier to slack off as there isn't a routine for you to be accountable to, and you can risk injury by engaging in activities your body isn't used to.

So, earlier this week I decided to retrain my focus on my fitness and put some routine back into my life (which seems to be dithering all over the place right now). I have dipped in and out of Bodybuilding.com as a fitness resource, and I do recommend it if you are looking for evidence-based articles on exercise and nutrition, and there is a great library of rated workouts and 'howto's. The over-emphasis on supplements and animal-based diets overwhelms me however, and that's when I 'dip out'. As it turned out though, I found what I think is a reasonable and adaptable lifting plan that also includes a cardio day, and I am going to boost it with my weekly spinning yoga and pump classes. This is the page I adapted it from, and below is what my weeks will be looking like for the time being:


Jogging to warm up/cool down
Legs: Barbell squats, leg press, seated leg curl, stiff legged deadlifts, standing calf raises, barbell lunges.


Medium/long run
Fitness yoga class


Rowing to warm up/cool down
Chest and shoulders: Dumbbell bemch press, smith machine incline press (or machine), butterflys/flyes, barbell bench press, dumbbell shoulder press, standing front barbell raise, side lateral raise, machine shoulder press, upright barbell rows, shrugs (added by James' recommendation)


Pump class (weight lifting to music, lower weight/higher rep - almost a cardio workout)


Back: Wide-grip lat pull-down, T-bar row, reverse-grip bent over row, bent over dumbbell rows, seated cable rows.
Spinning class


Rest day or run if missed on Tuesday or Pump class of missed on Thursday


High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - one minute fast, one minute slow/moderate pace on treadmill for 20-30 minutes.
Biceps and triceps:  Preacher curls, hammer curls, seated dumbbell curls, barbell curls 21s, tricep extension, tricep rope push down, underhand cable pull down, straight arm pull down, dips.

I am following the 3x10 reps  that are recommended on the site, though needless to say I won't be following the nutritional plan: I don't think '6 scrambled egg whites and a load of broccoli' would make for good foodie reading, and I love being creative in the kitchen too much.

I have also decided to start keeping an actual paper-based diary of my workouts, to log the weights I lift and any other comments to help me when I come round to the lifts again. This has the time saving bonus of stopping me from ditthering around with what weight to lift  because I can instantly see in my diary what I'm capable of, and taking notes between sets gives me something to do.See how prettyful it is ;-)

So far I have done Monday (calves were still aching this morning!), Tuesday, and Wednesday according to plan, though I've had to miss Pump today to go to the theatre with Grandma instead - cue Saturday morning Pump!

Tomorrow, should be a fun day as the farmer's market is on and I'm yet to to shop for my foodie penpal for this month! And my new back workout out and spinning 'back-to-back' (pun intended). Plus more job-hunting/volunteer placement-hunting in the pipeline. I need mental health work experience to get onto the therapy course I'd like to do, and though I've been offered a couple of interesting opportunities, my chasing them up has so far only resulted in a one-way relationship with the recipients' voicemails *sigh*. Here's to more luck tomorrow!

Speak to you again tomorrow, I think. Oh, and feel free to share your thoughts on my new plan below :-)

Hannah xx

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Getting adventurous in the kitchen!

 I got adventurous in the kitchen again today, inspired by the many vegetarian/vegan blogs that I read. Alternative pancake recipe are huge in this particular blogging sector, and also in the fitness world (PROTEIN PANCAKES), but I've never had the guts to go there. Sorry, but I love my breakfast too much (smoothie or porridge) to experiment with it . Most nights I soak my breakfast oats and seeds so that they are easier to cook, and are apparently healthier this way. That's 30g of oats, 10g of golden flaxseeds, 10g of sunflower seeds. So I had a cup of soaked  and seeds and the moment took me to be experimental (the passing of my poorliness, perhaps), and I ended up with my own invented recipe of wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free pancakes:
  • I drained off the excess soaking water
  • Mashed in half a small banana and added some vanilla extract and cinnamon
  • Fried them one by one (I made 3, each smaller than the next :-P) them in a hot pan spray in olive spray.
  • Topped with some berries, and served with a portion of yoghurt (Ok, not dairy-free) and fresh fruit.
...trying to disguise how they gradually got smaller and smaller ;-)
This success gave me the confidence I needed to try Lucy's 'Surprisingly Rich Double Chocolate Brownies', which is the main thing I wanted to share today. They are double chocolate. They are goo-ey. They are perhaps my greatest ever baking success (OK, it wouldn't take much to beat some of my past disasters...). And you would never ever guess that they were free from butter and eggs. The secret ingredient? Tofu. Take a look and see if they wouldn't fool you!

I can't take credit for how these turned out. I followed Lucy's instructions to the letter (with the exception of subbing almond milk for oat milk, and coconut oil for sunflower oil).

I can't even find the words to describe them. I'm just going to go off and pine for them since I baked them and left them behind at James' house :-(

I guess I wanted to share with you how I have learned today not to be afraid of getting experimental or deviating from your usual cooking methods. I don't want to walk before I can run, but I would like to challenge myself to try something new in the kitchen every week. Feel free to join me on this, and share your success!

Hope your weekend was a a good one,

Hannah xx

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Recipe: Pearl Barley and Veg Broth

Eurgh. I'm not my best. I have a cold, a sore throat, and feel a little bit sicky. It's not the worst it could be (I like to think I have my veggies to thank for keeping the worst of it at bay) but I still don't feel great. And it also means that I have to keep away from my mum as her treatment means that her immunity's really low and any illness could delay her recovery.

I wanted something easy but comforting for lunch today, and soup is such a great go to for when you're feeling a bit rushed. I made a broth with pearl barley, kidney beans and a load of veg. I've done a variation on this many times, and while I was a student it was such a great go to meal at the end of the day. It's enough preparation (an hour from start to finish) to be therapeutic, but not stressful either. It is inspired by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Every Day recipe for 'Raid the larder spelt broth':

Pearl Barley and Veg Broth (for 1 sick but hungry person)

25g pearl barley (dry weight) - rinse well
Clove of garlic - crushed
1 Dry bay leaf
1 tsp (scant) of vegetable bouillon/stock powder
Half a can of kidney beans - drained (which beans you have to hand. If you have dried beans, this equates to about 50g dry weight, and be sure to cook according to instructions before adding)
Half an onion - finely chopped
1 Medium carrot - finely chopped
Small handful of dried mushrooms (I used portobello, and shiitakes have worked for me well before) - Soak in enough water to cover for 15 mins, chop and reserve liquid)
50g (Large handful) Kale
50g Frozen peas

  • Boil pearl barley in enough water to cover by at least an inch, depending on how much liquid you want your broth to have, adding in the garlic, bay leaf and bouillon.
  • After half an hour (I use this time to prep the other ingredients) add onions and carrots. Keep the water boiling, and be sure to add more if it looks dry - the barley soaks it up!
  • Five minutes later, add the chopped mushrooms and the soaking liquid.
  • After another five minutes, add whichever beans you are using.
  • Another 15 minutes later add in the peas and kale for a final 5 or 10 minutes of cooking, depending on how well-cooked you like your greens.
  • Season with salt and pepper, if your taste prefers (though a decent bouillon should provide enough flavour enhancement).
  • Don't forget to remove the bay leaf before serving in a big bowl :-)
I am submitting this to the Wellness Weekend event, which is a great weekly resource worth checking out if you're looking for clean-eating, refined sugar-free inspiration!

Let me know if you try this out!

Hannah xxx

Friday, 6 July 2012

Giving up waiting for the 'right moment'

Do you ever do the thing that I do, whether it's with food or clothes or whatever, that when you have something special you just keep putting off using it because you are waiting for the right moment? Emma got me some wonderful things for foodie penpals last month, but my inner hoarder has been making me wait out for the 'right moment'. Well, today I bit the bullet - I made jam tarts AND I used the portobello mushrooms!

As my cooking so often is these days, these kitchen treats were inspired by other bloggers.

I manned up and made this pastry from the Green Gourmet Giraffe, because I like the idea of binding the dough with yoghurt. I used a flower shaped cutter, blind baked the pastry for 5 minutes at the highest temperature that Johanna suggests, and then spooned in the gorgeous peach jam (and some shop bought raspberry jam too to keep James happy!) and baked again for about 7-8 minutes. I'm not much of a baker - I like doing it but it usually ends up disastrous because I get too experimental! But hopefully I've made Emma proud (who's a wonderful baker - check out her facebook page). And yes, they are delicious, even if I do say so myself.

I have quinoa back in my life again. It is an awesome 'psuedo-grain', technically a seed, that is a complete protein, gluten-free, and so versatile. This blog, Queen of Quinoa, is a great resource with loads of recipes if you're interested. I made a lunch with quinoa, my dried portobellos sauteed in coconut oil and balsamic, some toasted walnuts (toasting transforms the flavour by the way - If you've not tried it, even if you hate raw walnuts, try dry frying them until they start to colour). It was inspired by this dish at Taste Space. I added peas for some colour and well....because I like peas. Expect more quinoa on this blog, and some more from those mushrooms too as I only used a quarter of the pack and I'm sure I'll be buying them myself!

And tonight I went to spinning, and it was one of the toughest spin classes I've ever done. This might have been because I had pump class last night and my legs were quite sore from endless squats. Anyway, if I can barely walk now, who knows what state I'll be in tomorrow?! A rest day might be in order... *sigh*. I do need to keep up my fitness but also take care not to get injured as I have another race on the horizon (Total Warrior). I'll share more on that on here nearer the time :-)

Have a lovely weekend!

Hannah xx

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A selfish vent and a quick share of some recent foodiness :-)

So today I need to use this outlet to vent a little....(and it's kinda food/health related....ish!)

My Grandma has been living with my mum and I since about Easter, except for a couple of visits back to check on Grandad, and she is winding me up like you wouldn't believe. She is here to help my mum while she's going through chemo, and I think that my mum tolerates because she knows how she would feel the need to be involved if her child was unwell. And she's constantly flapping about the kitchen and our food, and I can't step in and cook for everyone/myself because it is what keeps her going...well not as often as I'd like to (i.e. every evening!) I know she is well-meaning, I don't need to be told this, but it doesn't settle well with me as someone who has been used to seeing to her own nutritional requirements for the last 3 years. I know I'm being unreasonable and that I should be grateful, but here are the niggley things that will be better off my chest:

  • Boiling vegetables into oblivion, so that they are a floppy mulch and you can see all the goodness being drained off in the water. I'm used to crunchy veg, heated but barely past raw!
  • Mountains of white rice/bread/pasta every evening, and this is something I really can have no say in as my mum's change in tastes since chemo means that brown varieties are gross to her at the moment.
  • Not enough protein. She really makes an effort to cook meat-free, for which I really appreciate, but sometimes using mushrooms as a like-for-like meat doesn't quite cut it...and alongside a mound of refined carbs, my macro balance is way out of whack.
  • Putting parmesan on stuff (not strictly veggie)
  • Doing my washing up. OK, a weird thing to complain about, but I like to do my bit, and will often re-use a clean enough cup/dish. But seriously, used dishes now have a life-expectancy of about 10 minutes in this house.
  • Only using half a vegetable, like a carrot, then wrapping it up in a sandwich bag, putting it back in the fridge and never using it again. Seriously, just use the whole thing!

OK, I think that's all. I know it's irrational, and I can imagine you are thinking that there are more important things in life and I should be grateful that someone is here to take care of my mum and I, and that I have a loving grandmother at all. And I AM grateful for that. I am just not grateful of the above ^.

If your still with me at this point, thanks for reading guys, I really appreciate this opportunity to vent and share my experiences. I KNOW it looks pathetic, at that's another reason why I find it frustrating as I just can't reason with my natural impulse to find it oh-so annoying. Perhaps that's why I find bigger sh*t is easier to accept as I can reason with it and it's not so inexplicable.

Eurgh. I'll get over myself soon. Being unemployed and bored gives you a lot of thinking space.

In food news, when I have been able to prepare my own food here is some of the stuff I've made but of which I haven't had the opportunity to show on here:

I made a kidney bean chilli but added interest with some of my ouzo and tomato sauce and boosted the protein with a scoop of pea protein powder

 Here is a salad I made with some leftovers from Sunday's BBQ and my Hot Chickpeas from Greece. The marinade from the chickpeas was a pefect dressing. Shame they're all gone now :-(
 I made an 'almost a dahl' with red lentils, but instead of curry spices, hit it with the tomato and ouzo sauce, again boosted with pea protein. In savoury dishes, I'm really rather liking the protein powder addition. I can understand that some wouldn't like the texture nor the fact that it can sometimes 'blanden' a flavourful dish, but I found it actually helped to turn down the almost sickliness of the sauce, that I was experiencing after the first few mouthfuls
I made popcorn! I used half the pack Emma sent me for Foodie Penpals, popped in coconut oil and flavoured with maple syrup. Look how much just 45g yielded!!! I can't wait to experiment with the other half of the pack, with a spicey seasoning perhaps. And I still need to bake those jam tarts - tomorrow perhaps!
And I made houmous/hummus, based on the cannellini bean houmous/hummus in Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall's Veg book, but with the original CHICKPEA!!! I used my tahini from Greece. It's definitely chunkier than supermarket houmous/hummus, thanks to the rattling of my blender an the smell of burning, but I'm happy with the flavouring (a pinch of dried chili and herbs de provence) and it will last me for about 4 lunches.

In fitness news, I had a yoga cass for the first time in a couple of months and it was amazing. A full hour (didn't feel like it though) of fitness-tailored yoga, with some familiar moves and some new and challenging ones, and I loved it! It was so refreshing and relaxing but I still felt worked out by the end. I'm looking forward to my pump class tomorrow, though I am hoping to get some decent, heavy lifting in before the end of the week.

Thanks again for putting up with this rant-y post. I will be back on 'healthy' tomorrow, promise!

Hannah xxx

Monday, 2 July 2012

Race for Life Day!!!

Yesterday was the big day...my first ever race, a 10K for Cancer Research UK. I entered the race at the beginning of the year when my mum was undergoing breast cancer surgery and I wanted to find a way to show my support for her and others in affected by the illness. She is still having chemotherapy which spurred me on throughout training and the race itself, as chemotherapy is, of course, not so simple as a few injections and pills.

I was one of the first to arrive and it was cold and windy, though the sun was trying to come out. They had a stage set up with a guy from local radio to warm up the crowd, cheerleaders and an aerobic warm-up for the racers! The event organizer also called for a minute silence to remember those affected by cancer which was a really special touch. Remembrance was also acknowledged in the cards we were given to personalise and stick to our backs. This was mine, but there were so many other kind and inspiring messages. With over 800 entrants they has to arrange the start line according to runners, joggers and walkers. I considered myself on the border between jogging and running, but James (my boyfriend) told me to defninitely go for the runners, and the next thing I knew I was in the second row!

There was a huge count down from 10 and we went off! I hadn't planned how I wanted to start but I didn't want to burn out so I let the first 10 or so get away, before settling into a pace and checking out the runners ahead of me and whether or not they were worth overtaking ;-) I took a couple and some other took me, but overall I just tried to keep my pace steady, despite the couple of hills and changing winds, and enjoy the experience....which I did HUGELY!

And I crossed the line before 51 minutes - this massively surprised me, as I was expecting a time between 55 and 60 minutes, and this also put me in 13th place.
I swiped this from http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Cheltenham-Race-Life-2012-5k-10k-pictures/story-16474360-detail/story.html. There are some similarly sweaty pictures on my mum's camera but I can't upload them yet.

I was a very happy girl! And to top it all, I have raised around £600 for the cause (including gift aid from the government).

And in the evening to celebrate my run, and mine and James' graduation results, my mum threw a BBQ party, and there was no fake meat in sight - plenty of veggie kebabs, corn on the cobs, mushrooms and halloumi, a gorgeous butterbean bake, 'chips and dips', followed by a cute 'well done' cupcake and  an awesome baked cheesecake!

It was an incredible day, and I'll be signing up for next year's race very soon! If you're looking for a race to step up your fitness goals,check out the Cancer research UK site and see if there's one coming up near you - they run throughout the summer!

Hannah xxx