Eggs – Part One!

Hi all,

Hope you had a fab weekend and are looking forward to a great week ahead.

This week is British Egg Week and in order to celebrate, I have decided to share with you some of my favourite ways to use eggs/ recipes in order to inspire you all to get in the kitchen and use this most wonderful, versatile, delicious gem!

20130710 - Fast Food

First of all, let’s have a look at what makes the egg so fabulous. It really is a nutritional powerhouse – very high in protein and contains all essential amino acids. Being high in protein makes eggs the perfect food to eat for muscle recovery after exercise – so the ideal post work out fuel. In terms of vitamins, eggs have high levels of:

  • Vitamin A (for vision, high immune function, strong bones and healthy skin)
  • B2 (for cell energy production and release)
  • B6  (allows us to store energy and promotes the spread of oxygen around the body)
  • B12 (makes red blood cells and releases bodily energy)
  • Iron (also makes red blood cells and is essential in our diet)

And that is to name but a few. Wow! Add on the fact that it contains some healthy fats really does make the egg a winner in the nutrition stakes. However the main reason we all love eggs…they taste great and you can do so much with them!

Part one of my egg post will focus on the main way I tend to use eggs – in scrambles and omelettes. David and I will have a scramble or an omelette at least three times a week for lunch or dinner and we are looking to incorporate more of these types of dishes into our breakfasts soon. Although an omelette tends to be savoury, we have scrambles both sweet and savoury – the sweet ones being perfect for breakfast!

The Scramble/ Omelette (basics)

The basics of a scramble or omelette always start with as many eggs as you would like whisked together with a little bit of almond milk in a bowl (you can use any type of milk you like). Then comes the fun part of adding in some flavours/ other ingredients.

The sweet scramble

DSC02995

My 2 favourite ways of having a sweet scramble are a banana scramble or apple scramble. You take your scramble mix and add ½ tsp of cinnamon and ½ tsp of vanilla extract (we also add 1 tbsp of pumpkin puree for taste and texture). For a banana scramble, add 1 mashed banana, for an apple scramble, add ¼ cup of apple puree and mix. And there you have your batter! Simply cook in frying/sauté pan, moving the eggs around as you would scrambled eggs. Keep going until the eggs have coloured (they will colour naturally from the sugar coming out the fruit). Then serve in a bowl with whatever toppings you like – a big dollop of nut or seed butter is the biggest winner in our house!

The savoury scramble

The choices here really are endless. You could add any vegetables, meat, fish, herb or spice to eggs and mix through. The difference here, compared to an omelette is that they are mixed through the eggs rather than folded inside. I will share however, 2 of our favourite ways to have a savoury scramble.

Salsa scramble

DSC02893

Take your scramble mix and add 1 tbsp of salsa (we like a nice spicy hot one!). Cook some veggies in your frying/sauté pan until almost there – you really can use anything! We like carrots, sugar snap peas, chopped up cooked sweet potato, shredded chicken, baby corn, manage tout (not altogether of course!). Then once the veg is almost ready pour the egg mix over the top and mix through. Cook until eggs are set. Then you can either serve hot or let it cool and box it up for a lunch the next day, it’s really tasty cold with a salad.

Cabbage, mushroom and tomato scramble

DSC03032

Really is what it states above! You want to steam some sliced cabbage (1/4 of a cabbage per person as a main meal) in a pan until the tougher parts are soft (I prefer mine with a bit of a crunch to it though). Pop to the side. Chop some mushrooms and cook in a pan until cooked, then add to the cabbage. The tomatoes (you want 1 each), cut in half and scoop out inside. Then chop into chunks. Add the cabbage, mushrooms and tomatoes to the sauté pan and mix, add the egg mixture (with some seasoning) and mix through. Cook until eggs are ready. Yum! Believe me, this combo is delish!

Omelettes

Once again, the choices really are endless! We all know how to make an omelette – take your egg mix and add to a pan. When the egg is set, add fillings and fold over one side. Cook until eggs are ready. Simple! So let’s make them more often and really try to think outside the box – asian stir fry veg cooked with chillies as a filling – yes please. Asparagus (when in season) with smoked salmon – totally! Cherry tomatoes tossed in pesto, mushrooms with your favourite herbs, or keep it really simple with amazing ingredients that shine on their own like local smoked mackerel and serve with veggies at the side.

Our favourite omelette we have nicknamed ‘The Christmas Omelette’ due to its ingredients – but we have it all year round! And now Brussels are back in season I think it will feature quite a lot in our meal planning! Here is how we make it.

20121227 - Leftovers

The Christmas Omelette

  • Omelette mix with 1 tsp of dried sage mixed through
  • 5 shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 3 chopped mushrooms
  • Some shredded turkey or chicken

Stir fry the Brussels and mushrooms until cooked. Set aside. Cook the omelette as per usual and add the veg and meat when ready, fold over and cook until eggs are ready. Serve with a side salad and a dollop of cranberry sauce. Voila!

Why not enjoy an egg based meal over the next week – healthy, cheap and versatile – perfect! On the menu tonight for David and I, cabbage tomato and mushroom scramble!

Part two of my post later on in the week!

Crossfit – And just when you thought burpees were the worst…

wods and all

Hi all,

Yay it’s Friday! Here’s to a good weekend filled of lots of laughs and smiles and, hopefully, some chill out time! This week has been manic!

Just a quick post to do a recap of Crossfit last night – it was tough!

Remember when I went on Monday and I said I was feeling nervous? Well although the nerves had gone, they were replaced with me feeling exhausted from the week and therefore a bit uneasy as to whether or not I had the energy for tonight (I think the major reason for this feeling was the fact that it was my first full week back to a normal routine after being ill and I just think it was taking its toll). But like on Monday, I fuelled up and went to do the best I could.

Once I got moving, I was fine, my energy appeared! Yay!

We began with a warm up of 5 minutes of double unders. My score…0. I just can’t quite seem to grasp them. I don’t think I am jumping high enough but also don’t know if I can go any higher. Maybe my wrists won’t flick the rope round in time? Urgh, it is frustrating, I look at everyone else and their technique for doing them but they all seem to be so different, I think I just need to find my way. And I will, just need to keep on practicing!

wod 3

We then moved on to the first part of the workout, the 3 position cleans. We began with some practice (tekkers) on the plastic pipes, which I was grateful for as I hadn’t done these since on- ramp training. Coach also broke the move down into segments which I really appreciated. By doing this it meant that every little aspect of the technique was covered, allowing us all to really pin down the correct way to do the move. After the practice, we grabbed a barbell (I stuck with a 7.5kg bar with training wheels). For me, this wasn’t about the weight; it was about practicing my technique and trying to hone down exactly how to get the move spot on. I broke the move down into the different parts and moved slowly. It takes a while to get used to the idea of squatting down and the precise moment you are lifting the bar up on to your front rack! I think coach was pleased though that I took this approach, he is all about technique and getting it spot on – and that is why we are training with him at this box. Technique is everything.

After that came the main WOD. And just when I thought that nothing could be worse than burpees… here come the wall walks!

Ok, so you lie on your tummy with the backs of your feet on the wall. You then move into a push up, move your hands back so that you go into a pike. Then place one leg vertically on the wall, followed by the other one. Then move your hands back so that you are in a handstand position against the wall. Reverse back down into push up starting point on your tummy. And we had to do this 30 times. (If what I wrote doesn’t make sense, try googling for a video in order to see this, well quite frankly, form of torture!).

So I tried my best. My version was very much scaled. I got to the point where my legs were vertical on the wall but I just couldn’t move my arms, they just went ‘nope no way are we moving!’. I think it is a combination of getting used to being upside-down but  also due to the fact that my arms are so weak, they just couldn’t hold me up and move at the same time. I managed to do 30 ‘my versions’ in 10 minutes, 15 seconds but it was so very tough. Everyone found it so difficult.

However, even though I was shattered by the end of it and still trying to come to terms with just the crazy concept of the wall walk (apparently my face was a picture when coach demonstrated the move, my jaw was on the floor!), I felt good. I was pleased with my progress on the cleans and know that by taking my time with them, my technique will be perfect. And with regards to the wall walks, well I had just done something I never thought I would or could do. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be so rewarding.

Foods that I am sad to see go/ happy to see arrive!

Hi all,

I was thinking about what I should do for ‘What I ate Wednesday’ this week. Now what I ate yesterday was indeed tasty, but nothing that I haven’t told you all about before, so I decided to pass on that for this week and to think outside the box.

So now that autumn/ fall is indeed upon us, I decided to recap the season just past and the season ahead for a post on – foods that I am sad to see go/ foods that I am happy to see arrive!

Summer is indeed over, or it definitely is here in Scotland. The days of summer salads, ice cold coffees, walking around in shorts and t-shirts (wait… did we ever do that in Scotland!?), seem an age ago. The mornings and evenings are getting darker and every day seems to be getting a little chillier. I still have yet to put the heating on in the house though, am trying to keep that off until the last moment (just put on another jumper instead!).

Along with the (slight) heat and the sun, I have to say goodbye to some of my favourite foods. Here are the top 5 I will miss.

(Note – I know that some of you will be thinking ‘wait, you can still get them in my supermarket!’, but I am referring to foods that are seasonally at their best during the summer, more often than not locally grown and taste fantastic. Most of the out of season produce that I have tried from supermarkets just don’t taste the same, or can even taste pretty nasty to be honest. I advocate eating real food and eating seasonally – after all, don’t we want food at its best!?).

1)      Berries

20130912 - Berry Picking-3

–          I have to put berries altogether in one segment, otherwise they would take up most of my list! I adore local strawberries and raspberries – we seem to have the perfect climate for them in Scotland over in the East Coast and they are so plump and juicy. Blackberries are also so divine – blackberry picking on the downs near London definitely has to be one of the highlights of my recent holiday. Nothing like picking berries straight off the bush and eating them (then returning home to find your mouth is surrounded in purple berry juice!). On the plus side, because our forage was so successful, I have many portions of blackberries in my freezer now for throughout the winter – brilliant!

2)      Melon

DSC02960

–          This again, encompasses all types of melon; I haven’t come across one I haven’t adored yet. Galia and honeydew are so sweet and juicy, the flavour is so intense, and one piece just isn’t enough. Then there is the king of melons, the watermelon. Oh so refreshing, nothing quenches your thirst like it and the colour inside, the deep red crimson…beauty and a treat! And the wonder of melon is its ability to be used in sweet and savoury dishes. Galia melon wrapped in prosciutto anyone? Or a watermelon, feta and almond salad?

3)      Tomatoes

DSC02845

–          I feel like I owe tomatoes quite a lot. Until my mid twenties, I always maintained that I didn’t like tomatoes. What was I thinking! Then I tried them again and now I can’t get enough of them. I just needed to try and good, in season, local, ripe tomato. So, I owe them a good 25 years worth of catching up! I love the variety in tomatoes – beef, cherry, heirloom – all are perfect in their own way for a variety of dishes. I will continue to buy the occasional tomato out with the season but only for inclusion in dishes – e.g. I wouldn’t be putting them on salads etc. Or will use a good quality tinned chopped tomato – a good store cupboard staple.

4)      Cherries

20130711 - A cherry on top

–          Ah cherries… get them at their peak and I could honestly eat them nonstop. I used to think the best cherries I ever had were in Florence, Italy – that was until I tried English cherries for the first time this year – oh boy! Big, pump, juicy and rich they were the bees’ knees! Let’s just hope for another good summer next year so that we have another abundant crop.

5)      Courgettes (Zucchini)

DSC02953

–          This last spot was a tough one as it was a tossup between courgettes and sugar snap peas. I do love the snap peas and I take such delight in dipping one of those beauties into some salsa or just chomping away on their individual sweetness but courgettes just beat them to the post. Courgettes are so versatile. They can be added to any dish along with a mixture of vegetables but are also so great on their own. Grilled, they can be mixed in a salad, hot or cold. You can steam them, roast them, and even grate them. I might pop along to my local organic supermarket in the next few days to see if I can get the last of the seasonal ones, I still want to try 2 more dishes – roasted courgette wedges and a courgette hash. Please have some!

Now we move on to autumn!

Yes so it gets a little darker and a little colder, but surely there is nothing better than snuggling up on the sofa when it’s dark outside and your feeling a little chilly? Or walking through your local park when the leaves are all turning majestical colours of bronze and falling from the skies at the slightest hint of a breeze? And then we come to the change in flavours. We move from fragrant and fresh herbs to warm and comforting spices. From roasted meats with root vegetables to thick piping hot bowls of soup, the autumn into winter months are a different world to the previous few months and bring with them so many jewels. Here are the top 5 foods I am most looking forward to having again.

1)      Squashes/ pumpkin

DSC03407

–          They really did have to be number one, no questions, hands down. I spend all year longing for seasonal squash; they just aren’t the same any other time of the year. Pumpkin is king of course, but it is still quite difficult to find good quality pumpkin here in the UK. Even finding tinned pumpkin puree is difficult but thanks to now living in a city with a Whole Foods, I have this covered! Will just keep my eyes peeled for some local pumpkins popping up! On the plus side our supermarkets are filled with British butternut squashes and I can even get onion and harlequin squashes too, which taste amazing! Squash and pumpkin are just incredible for being used in anything and everything, sweet and savoury, breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I look forward to having them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! (Maybe not all on the same day… although I would be tempted!).

2)      Apples

apples

–          Being an island, Britain has to import quite a lot. I know a lot of our fruit and veg has to come from Europe, there is no other way to do it, we just can’t make enough food on our wee island. So, if they are imported, I just try and find ones from closest to home – i.e. France or Germany. For most of the year, this is the case with apples, that is until the autumn, when British apples come into force! Right now I am tucking into discovery apples – a desert apple with its own unique taste, there really isn’t another apple that tastes quite like it. Looking forward to hopefully getting some Braeburns next though, yum!

3)      Sweet Potatoes

DSC02931

–          Another food that I do buy all year round, it’s a nutritional powerhouse! But I am looking forward to some seasonal ones over the next few months. Also due to their growth in popularity in the UK, hopefully some more British grown ones rather than European. Will just keep my eyes on the label/ asking where they came from if unlabelled. Be powered in knowing where your food comes from!

4)      Citrus Fruit

–          Another key example of our need to import, you can’t mass grow citrus in the UK, not with our climate! But we get some amazing produce from Europe – Spain in particular. I love a tart zingy pink grapefruit, a sweet clementine or tangerine or just a good old orange. I know many people have some many fond childhood memories of clementines at Christmas; even just the smell of them gets me all excited! Just like the smell of cinnamon.  Oh and just a wee reminder, yesterday, Christmas was 3 months to the day… just saying!

5)      Brussels Sprouts

20121227 - Leftovers

–          I love them! Some hate them, but I just think it’s because they have never had one cooked properly (i.e. not nuked and boiled for 4 hours!). Each little cabbage is full of nutrients and flavour, winner winner! I shred them in an omelette, roast them, sauté them, steam them and mix them with anything and everything. Most of the time, they are the star of the show in the dishes I cook. Cheap, tasty and here until March, bring on the sprout meal inspiration! I want to eat them as much as I can!

So there we have it, my list of foods I will miss from summer but combined with foods I am desperately looking forward to from the autumn. Autumn is an amazing season and I am looking forward to experiencing Glasgow in the autumn for the first time. If it’s anything like the summer was, it’s going to be pretty awesome.

What foods are you going to miss/ looking forward to?

Crossfit – And my first injury!

wods and all

Hi all,

Hope you are all well and having a good ‘hump day’ – not a phrase we tend to use here in the UK but I love it! So will therefore start spreading it around…!

Gosh it seems like such a long time since I have written a Crossfit post. I had my week in London and then last week I was unwell with the flu, so avoided Crossfit – that would not be a good combination!

But feeling a lot better this week – tested myself out with a few home workouts first, then a gentle gym session and then my usual gym session. Once I could do that I knew I was ok to go back to Crossfit. (I must admit here I have been terrible in the past for going back to training before I was ready after an illness, but through educating myself more I have realised that your body can only cope with so much stress. Exercise is a stress on the body and so is illness, it can only deal with one at a time.)

I was a bit nervous, ok, a lot nervous about going back to Crossfit after a 2 week absence. My strength is getting there but I know it is going to take a lot of time and I was worried that through having this break, plus being ill, it was going to put me back.

It was difficult to push through the nerves but I did it, I knew I had to go back and face the music! So David and I fuelled up and headed to our box.

WOD2

We did our usual warm up, David and the others ran and I spent some time on the skipping rope. I just tried to get my heart rate going, rather than practicing double unders, as I knew I just needed to warm up. We then went inside and did some stretches, they were beasts but I knew they were working on areas that needed some movement – focussing on our hips which will help us with our squats. I certainly noticed a difference after doing them; hope we do some more of those in later sessions.

I then paired up with David to do the following –

8 rounds of 4

–          Back squats 80% of your max one rep weight

–          Followed by 6 box jumps after each set.

As both David and I don’t have a max one rep weight yet we had a few rounds of trialling out some weights. Our coach was keen to see us push ourselves a bit harder, not to the max but just to encourage us to be a bit braver! It was good to have a few rounds of trialling and by the end I was very pleased to see how far I had come. I was able to back squat 20kg for 4 reps! Progress!

The main WOD then followed

20 minute AMRAP

5 push presses

10 hand raise push ups

15 pull ups

To begin with I went for a weight of 12.5kg but only managed half the WOD with this weight, and took it down to 7.5kg. A bit disappointed with this but it was for the best, I was struggling with the weight and it was my coach’s advice to drop the weight down, so I obviously wasn’t lifting properly either.

The push ups were push ups, never much fun and it didn’t help that for the first 2 rounds I did 20 rather than 10 of them! Felt so stupid when I realised what I had done!

The pull ups, for me, were gym ring rows, from an elevated position. I did want to do them from the ground but my arms were just not giving me the strength I needed to do it. It was however, during one of my rows, that I received my first Crossfit injury! I leant back to start my row, at the same time another Crossfitter was lowering her bar from the push press and –thump- hut me straight on the head! It was sore, yes but I felt ok to continue. No one was to blame; we were both just in our WOD mental zones. A lesson learnt though; take a look around you before you move on to your next piece of equipment!

So apart from a bump to the head and having to lower my weight on the bar, I was quite pleased with my performance. I managed 7 rounds, plus 1 push up and it was a tough WOD. I was also just so pleased to have put in a good performance with this being my first WOD after being ill.

I also lost that nervous feeling, thank goodness! The good vibes at the box really does put you at ease. Back to the box on Thursday!

 

 

Real Food Snacks!

Hi all,

I enjoyed some new foods over the weekend, mostly some new snack foods that we had picked up on a travels a few weeks ago. So I thought I would share them with you all.

When it got to mid afternoon on Saturday, David and I really needed some sustenance and a wee break from all the cooking. When we were down in Brighton, we spotted a small American food candy store and decided to pop in. They had lots of crazy candies but what caught our eye was the selection of artisan sodas that the store had. We had never seen so many types of unique sodas before; even just checking out some of the fab art work on the labels was fun! However one soda jumped out, a Pumpkin Pie soda from a company called Maine Root – an organic artisan soda company with real natural unprocessed ingredients. We love pumpkin, love real foods = sold! Oh boy was it tasty. We split the bottle, I probably couldn’t of drunk more than half anyway as it was quite sweet and I’m not used to drinking soda anymore but I definitely enjoyed the flavour. If only we could get more! I went on their website and they do so many different kinds including a root beer and ginger beer. I know the British market isn’t quite there yet with the taste of pumpkin, especially pumpkin spice, but I would love to see some of the others around. David even tweeted Whole Foods asking them to stock it! Well if any store was going to…

20130921 - Cooking Saturday-2

To go along with this, we decided to try out a recipe that we had been meaning to try for quite a while – banana soft serve! I say a recipe, but I don’t even think you could call it that, more just directions!

–          Take one frozen banana and blitz it with a small amount of almond milk. And that’s it! If you want some chunks of banana, don’t blitz for too long – I liked coming across the odd chunk or two! Serve in a nice bowl and tuck it – oh my goodness is it amazing, tasty and a completely guilt free frozen treat. I know adults and kids alike will love this! You can also mix it up a bit, add a tbsp of nut butter or, if you like it, some cocoa nibs. I think David and I are going to try it next with some pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spices, along with the banana. Hmmm, got me daydreaming about it already!

DSC03392

On Sunday, David and I did our usual Sunday afternoon ritual of going to Starbucks for a nice coffee, while David caught up with blog reading and I did some writing. We decided to take some more of the snacks with us that we had picked up on our travels.

David raved about the 100% raw brownie he tried. Ingredients – 36% raw chocolate, 28% walnuts, 22% medjool dates, 14% cashews.

I wasn’t so keen but then again, I don’t like chocolate so that’s not surprising! I can however, appreciate the amazing, nutritional powerhouse that this bar is and David, who is a keen dark raw chocolate lover, highly rated it.

Made by 100 percent natural foods and based in Brighton, they have an amazing product, hopefully they will expand and we may see their product in Scotland. Until then I was hoping we might pay their website a visit however it doesn’t appear to be up and running yet. Hopefully soon.

DSC03416

I took along a snack that I too had picked up from the organic supermarket in Brighton – pear crisps made by Perry Court Farm – a local English producer who specialises in making healthy snacks from the fruit on their farm.  I have had apple, beet and carrot crisps before but never pear, so they jumped out for me to try. When looking at fruit/ veggie crisps I always look for a naturally dried product, so many on the market have been fried in oil, making them just as unhealthy as normal potato crisps, so watch out and always read the label! I am pleased to say that Perry Court Farm air dry their fruit, locking in all the natural sweetness and this certainly came through when trying the crisps. They didn’t have the crunch I was expecting, but they were lovely, sweet and you could tell the fruit was of high quality. I also think that because they didn’t have ‘the crunch’ you ate them more slowly, savouring the flavour, always good! Will definitely have to keep an eye out for them and the other varieties available, sweet apple crisps and tangy apple crisps, quite impressed!

AIR%20DRIED%20PEAR%20CRISPS%20200

Food preperation for the week ahead!

HI all,

Happy Monday, hope your week is off to a swinging start!

I thought I would write today to share with you David and I’s very productive Saturday afternoon/ evening – prepping for the week ahead!

I am a big advocate for planning and preparing, especially when it comes to food for the week. David and I usually sit down on a Wednesday evening when he comes home from work, and we create our menu for the week, commencing on the forthcoming Saturday. We always have fun doing this and always have favourites that we want week after week (mostly David and anything sweet potato/ avocado orientated!), and bringing back some old classics that we had forgotten about. We write all our menus in a notebook so we can look back on them, an excellent tool when it comes to planning and thinking about your options.

20130921 - Cook up Saturday

We knew we were going to have a Saturday afternoon at home this weekend so we thought it the perfect opportunity to stock up our freezer with some cooked staples for the next few weeks and, while the oven was on for dinner, cook up some of the bits and bobs for the week ahead. As a very frugal person, if I can get away with only putting the oven on once, then that’s what I will do!

The following is what we cooked up over the next few hours. Where there is a recipe or any hints and tips, I have listed it.

Simple Veggie Soup

DSC03397

500g of carrots chopped

1 large broccoli – chopped

2 small cauliflowers – chopped

2 litres of stock – I used chicken

Pepper to taste

–          This is so easy to make. Simply cook the veg in the stock on the stove. When ready, blitz the veg and stock mix until smooth. Add pepper to taste (there is usually enough salt in the stock but feel free to add some if you feel it is necessary) and voila! Easy peasy soup! We got 12 individual portions from this and it freezes very well. If you want, after heating the soup, add some shredded chicken or spinach to bulk up a bit.

Marinara Sauce

20130921 - Cooking Saturday

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tsp of chilli flakes

Drizzle of olive oil

1 tin of chopped tomatoes plus half a tin of water

Handful of chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp of dried basil

–          Heat the oil in the pan and add the garlic and chilli flakes. Cook until golden. Add the tomatoes and water along with the basil and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

–          We really enjoy this sauce and get 6 x 2 person portions from this. However if you like a lot of sauce, you will probably have less. I use a silicon muffin tray to divide out the portions then pop them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can pop them out of the tray and into a freezer bag for easy storage. The sauce freezes really well and it doesn’t take long to defrost a portion when you need a quick dinner.

Chicken drumsticks

20130921 - Cooking Saturday-4

Portion of drumsticks

Salt and pepper

Garlic granules

–          Season the chicken along with a sprinkle of garlic on each. Pop on a baking tray and put in oven for 45 minutes. Simple, easy, tasty and they keep in the fridge for about a week (if they last that long). Perfect for lunches, to add to eggs, salads, snacks, an easy dinner, the list is endless!

2 roasted Butternut Squashes

DSC03407

–          2 squashes, split in half, seeds out and roasted in the oven for about an hour (depending on size). Keeps in the fridge for about a week and easy to heat up in the microwave for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Sweet Potato Coins

DSC03398

–          The most perfect snack, David loves them mid morning with some nut butter. Normally I just dice them into coins and roast in the oven until ready. This time I put them in the tray with the chicken to absorb some of the amazing flavours and juices from the chicken. I was not disappointed, they are delicious! Sealed in a tub they can also keep for a week.

We also, amongst all this, prepped and chopped our veggies for the week so that they could be easily grabbed to make dinner and lunches. Oh and yes we made dinner as well, Cauliflower crust pizza – yum! We were certainly glad to sit down with this, a glass of wine and a good movie in the evening!

DSC02906

Hope this post may have inspired some of you to get your thinking caps on with planning meals, or spending a little time at the weekend to do a bit of preparation for the week ahead, leaving more time to chill out when you really need it! I really enjoy planning, preparing and cooking meals – yes I love to be organised, but what I mostly love about it is spending time cooking real, whole foods, that smell and taste great and doing it all with my hubby David. Definite quality time.

Morning at the Spa!

Hi all,

Hope you are enjoying a wonderful weekend!

Thought I would write a wee post letting you know about my Saturday morning treat – a spa session with my hubby David!

A couple of months back we got a Groupon voucher for breakfast and a spa morning for 2 at a local Hilton hotel – the Hilton Strathclyde. So last week we finally decided it was time to cash it in and we booked in for Saturday.

DSC03372

We arrived bright and early to a lovely warm welcome from the receptionist who gave us our tokens for breakfast and the spa and explained where each was located.

Breakfast was buffet style and after being seated, we headed over to see what was available. I was really impressed with the choices, especially for people like David and I who follow a paleo-esque/ grain free lifestyle. So many buffets are all about the cakes, pastries, muffins, cereal and bread (of which the Hilton did provide) but the buffet here had quite a lot of grain free options! Yay!

Both David and I were tempted by the same thing – 2 poached eggs, 2 rashes of delicious bacon, some smoked mackerel, followed by a nice bowl of fresh fruit. We also ordered some freshly brewed coffee and had some orange juice.

DSC03376DSC03382

Other options included – all types of eggs (fried and scrambled were on the servery – poached and omelettes had to be ordered), sausages, grilled tomatoes, oatmeal, ham, turkey, emmental cheese, dried apples, pecan nuts, dried apricots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, carrots. This is just a list of the foods David and I potentially would have gone for; there were other choices, just not our kind of thing.

The food was really nice, especially the bacon which was of excellent quality and the mackerel. The coffee was nice and strong, always a winner! The orange juice, well, you could tell was from concentrate and was quite sweet, but I can understand that to provide a freshly squeezed pure juice would be quite expensive! We also had to wait 20 minutes for our poached eggs and David had to chase them up on it (I think they had forgotten). Not the best start to our breakfast but when they did arrive, they were perfectly cooked and paired with everything else made things a-ok.

DSC03378

We sat and chatted and chilled out with our food and coffee for a while, just enjoying each other’s company and knowing there was no rush – bliss! Can’t remember the last time we could do that!

After we finished the last drips of our coffee, we headed over to the health spa where we were given towels and shown to the changing rooms. The changing rooms were clean, tidy and very smart – I do like a nice changing room, with good showers! Also little things like having hangers in your locker to hang your clothes make such a difference!

I met David ‘on the other side’ and we looked to see what there was to offer. There was a pool, bubble pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. The pool had quite a lot of kids in it, most having swimming lessons which was a shame as there didn’t seem to be much room for adults to have a general swim. But the steam room took our fancy, David and I adore the heat! After a week of having the flu I was also looking forward to the steam clearing out all my sinuses and giving me a real detox. It did its job perfectly and we went a couple of times, alternating between that, the sauna and the bubble pool (the bubble pool having the cooler water which meant we could go straight from hot to cold, great for the muscles!). We also had the chance to have a wee swim when things calmed down with the swimming lessons which was nice.

DSC03386

We really did have the chance to chill out and relax in the spa and that combined with breakfast beforehand made it the perfect Saturday morning. A great chance to unwind with David, something we don’t often get the chance to do. Now, our afternoon on the other hand, was much more crazy but more on that tomorrow!

My Holiday Workouts!

My holiday workouts

Hi all,

Hope you have all had a fab week and are looking forward to a fun packed weekend!

Today marks the last of my holiday posts, hope you have enjoyed them! This post will focus on the workouts I did while I was on my holiday – I love exercise and even when David and I are away we want to take some time out to get a workout done. You are supposed to do the things you love on holiday, right?!

We fitted in 3 workouts while we were away and did them in the morning before breakfast – nothing like a boost of endorphins in the morning to get you going. The amount of walking we did around London on a daily basis when we were away made up for the rest of our exercise for the week – I wish I had taken a pedometer with me just to see exactly how far we walked! But I love walking so to pound the streets of London was just fantastic!

As a runner, David decided to continue with this for his workouts. We were staying with my Grandma who lives literally on Epsom Downs Racecourse – a beautiful, amazing place with fantastic views over London. David was eager to take the opportunity of an early morning run on the Downs, so peaceful and quiet.

I decided to go with an indoor workout for my first two, going for a high intensity power workout.

My first workout was a 15 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible). I didn’t have any workout materials with me (just my kit!), so this workout would be perfect if you were away at a hotel or on holiday somewhere where you didn’t have access to a gym (or didn’t want to leave your room!).  I also warmed up and warmed down before and after this workout.

Holiday Workout One!

15 AMRAP

10 squats

10 crunches

10 lunges

10 triceps dips

30 second plank

My second workout a few days later was quite similar, but I did mix things up a bit. I felt like the 15 AMRAP was working for me and got me pumped up and ready for the day so stuck with that, but went for a different configuration. Note – with a warm up and warm down, in total these workouts lasted approximately half an hour.

Holiday Workout Two!

15 AMRAP

30 second elbow plank

20 mountain climbers

10 lunges

30 second straight arm plank

20 crunches

10 squats

By the time we got to the end of our holiday, I was getting a bit envious of David and his morning views, so I decided to go out and do my workout on the Downs. A few years back, due to lack of muscle on my left knee, my Doctor advised me that running was something I should never do as it would lead to more wastage on my knee. I have however, spend the last 5 years trying to build up this muscle and make my knee strong, so I decided to finally take the plunge and test it out. Now I am not going to start training for a marathon or anything but just ease my knee into running now and again, in short intervals and see how I go. The workout below was tough, mostly because I haven’t ran before but my knee felt fine during and after the workout. So maybe a bit of gentle running, now and again, might be ok – yay!

Holiday Workout Three!

5 min power walk (to warm up)

2 min run

2 min of lunges

2 min run

1 min hold squat then 1 min of squats

2 min run

2 min lunge then twist from side to side

2 min run

Warm down

I really enjoyed that workout and being out in the fresh air – wow running does really clear your head! I also loved mixing up the running with other exercises. Oh and I got to see a few horses too, which is always lovely.

But, by far my favourite ‘workout’ whilst I was on holiday was blackberry picking! An hour and a half, in fresh country air, bending, stretching and reaching for the best berries, what more could you ask for in terms of exercise. Although I did eat my fair share of them too! But hey, nothing wrong with a delicious snack, straight from the bushes!

20130912 - Berry Picking-3

Theme Park Fuel!

Theme park fuel

Hi all!

One of our holiday days we spent taking my 7 year old cousin Charlie to a local theme park – Chessington World of Adventures. And what a theme park it is – a zoo, sealife centre, safari park and that’s before you take all the rides into account! I love going to Chessington and we have gone since I was a little girl, although it has certainly changed dramatically throughout the years – you always feel so old when you find yourself saying ‘oh back when I was younger, I remember when it only had X, Y, Z…!’. But then I speak to my Grandma, who took my Dad and his brothers and sisters when they were young, back then it consisted of a zoo, some slides and climbing frames! So I don’t feel so old then! Every time I see it expanding and getting bigger and better I just feel proud of knowing where it has come from and what it has achieved through hard work. Well done Chessington!

20130911 - Chesington-2

Anyway, back to the main focus of my writing today! I wanted to look at fuelling yourself and your family for a day at a theme park, something I know people find difficult. David and I, when planning for the day, wanted to make sure we made the right choices food wise for both ourselves and Charlie, making sure we had the energy to keep us going all the way through.

Eating is tough at a theme park. Fast food options, typically burgers, nachos, fried chicken, pizza, soda and cakes and doughnuts are prominent and for some too tempting to resist. Luckily David and I don’t enjoy this type of food but we saw quite a lot of people tucking into everything available. We all know that this type of food leads to sugar highs, then lows and the processed produce doing nothing good for your digestion never mind nutrition and energy levels. And the expense too! So why do some do it? Is it really a ‘treat’ if it does so much harm? Is it because of the ease of it all? Well, my aim with this post is to give you some options of alternatives, what’s worth buying while you are there and what to bring with you and why. Normally most kids only have one day a year having fun at a theme park – give them and you the fuel to make the most of it!

(I must add in at this point that I was quite impressed at some of the changes Chessington had made to the food served in their restaurants and cafes. Although the unhealthy fast food options were still available, they do also have some healthier choices available including salads, grilled chicken wraps (with calorie details) and serving fruit juice). Hopefully this will continue and only get stronger. Also a big thanks to Chessington from all the families out there as they still allow you to bring a picnic into the park, I know some theme parks out there don’t allow this.)

I have divided the day into 3 ‘eating’ points – mid morning snack, lunch and mid afternoon snack. Many things can be used for nibbles in between though. Little and often seemed to work well, meaning we were always fuelled but never overly full (not a good combo for the fast rides!).

Mid morning snack options 

There are many snack options for taking with you and most can fit quite easily in small tubs or containers so that you aren’t loaded down with food. Some are even individually wrapped so there are no problems there. My advice, always take just a wee bit more than you think you might need, that way there are always different options for fussy kids/ adults dependant on what food mood they are in! But don’t take too much, you can always stock back up at lunchtime. David carried a small, over-the-shoulder, bag with him which fitted all our snacks, his wallet, phone and camera. A small backpack would also be perfect.

See below a list of good options for snacks. We didn’t take all of these but it shows you some of the options, plus many more I’m sure you could think of too. Note there is no fresh fruit on this list, we found that fresh fruit was better kept for lunch or when you returned to the car at the end (no one likes bashed or squished, warm fruit!).

–          Nuts, seeds and small dried fruit like raisins and cranberries (we took some of our homemade trail mix, see picture below)

DSC03132

–          Dried fruit – amazing for energy, good examples including – dates, apple rings, prunes, mango, figs etc.

–          Cereal/ snack bars – try to stick to natural options with little or no sugar, oat based or even better, without grains. Great options in the UK are Nakd bars, Rude Health bars or Food Doctor bars which are mostly fruit and nut based. Charlie also loves Bear Yo- Yo’s  – 100% baked fruit, rolled up. Bear also do a variety of other healthy snacks as a good kid option.

DSC03354

–          Beef jerky – great protein boost.

–          A fruit juice or a 100% fruit smoothie is also a good option at this point, giving you and the kids an instant, natural energy hit.

Lunch options

The options you can bring with you for lunch are endless; it all depends on how much preparation you want to do before you arrive. We left our lunch in the car in a cool bag and Chessington allow you to leave the park to retrieve it from your car at lunchtime. We didn’t want to have to head back to the car again, so we made sure that we didn’t have too much, that everything was disposable and put it in a tote bag that could be folded and put in David’s bag once finished with. So if you wanted to make your own salads etc, just make sure you bare this in mind if you don’t want another trek to the car with tubs and containers. Why not use washed up food containers that you don’t mind losing? We use ones that we get our dried fruit in/ cold food bar tubs from Whole Foods. Again, we didn’t have all of the foods below but here are some good options.

–          Tuna salad – this is what David and I had, with loads of veggies. Such a good boost without being too heavy. Any meat or fish would also work so well. Salmon or turkey, cooked with your favourite spice or herb maybe? Veggies also tend to hold their own better in a cool bag rather than salad, although I think if you went for a stronger leaf like spinach it may be ok. Oh and if you want to dress your salad, keep it in a separate container and dress when you are there, no one likes a soggy salad!

–          Eggs – boiled, in a salad, mashed up as a dip with veggies or even a cold scramble is delicious – don’t believe me, try it!

–          Veggie dippers – we took carrot and cucumber sticks with us and Charlie loved them! Ideal at lunchtime with some hummus, salsa or guacamole. You could also pop in some cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, cold sweet potato wedges etc. Or another great option is apple chunks with some nut or seed butter.

–          Cooked chicken strips – big chunks of cooked chicken are always good nibblers!

–          Cheese – wrapped squares/ rectangles of cheese that you can buy in the supermarket are perfect sized portions. Just make sure what you are buying is 100% pure cheese and not processed. Babybels are a good example of a perfect portion.

–          Fruit – this is where your fresh fruit comes in. Good options are always bananas or apples but the list is endless and sometimes a good option for kids is smaller fruit like grapes, blueberries, cut up strawberries, kiwi, tangerines – I could go on!

Mid afternoon snack options

By this point in the day, we were all getting a bit tired, mostly from all the running around – we basically ran from every ride to another, from each zone to zone! 7 year olds can run fast! So with this I link back to what we had for mid morning – we looked at the leftovers from that and went from there, returning to the car to eat it. Charlie really liked having another bear yo fruit pack but he also was really keen to tuck into another apple. We found that, although he had been drinking all day, he was still really thirsty, so water was always on hand. I had an apple too along with some dried prunes and David went for an apple, some grapes and a snack square of cheese. Note – the cheese kept really well all day. We also made sure we had some snacks still in the cool bag in the car so if we had run out by the time we were heading home we still had options if we were hungry.

What to buy while you are there

Drinks – I really do feel that this is the only thing that is worth buying while you are there, simply so that you don’t have to carry around bottles and bottles of juice and water. The only drinks we brought with us were what we collected from the car to have with our lunch. Chessington had fresh apple and orange juice for sale along with 100% fruit smoothies and bottled water. For the adults out there, they also had plenty of places selling tea, coffee and other hot beverages. I even managed to have a lemon and ginger herbal tea – fantastic! All at very reasonable prices.

If you have a problem with your kids asking for soda or any other not so good for you drinks, trying going into the cafe or shop first yourself, scoping the choice out, then returning outside to give them the options. If fruit juice and water is all they are offered then they are the only options!

So I hope this post has helped some of you, or even just given you food for thought. I know it requires a bit of thinking and preparation beforehand but I believe it is totally worth it when you see the kids (and yourself of course) having the energy to run around and really enjoy your day fully. And of course, also making things a little easier on the purse strings!

20130911 - Chesington-17

Day Three – Back in London Town!

Hi all!

We had one more day left in the city centre of London itself on our holidays (other days to be left seeing family etc). So we decided to see some of the sights that we have never done before. Considering I have been to London on holiday every year since I was born, it is surprising that there are still new things out there for me to see! But that’s the fantastic thing about ever changing London, even the sights you have seen before and the tours you have done before adapt and alter through time. And even a sight or view of a major monument or building changes dependant on the season or weather, a friendly tower bridge in the sunshine becomes menacing and dominant in the dark rain and fog. I love it! One new view for me this year, the Shard in the sun!

20130910 - Day in London

On the cards for us today were 2 new attractions. The first of which was the Emirates Air Line cable car, which leaves from the O2 arena in Greenwich (previously known as the Millennium dome, don’t think I will be able to call it anything different!), to the Royal Dock. Apart from when I went to the dome when I was younger, and a boat trip on the River Thames, I haven’t really explored this side of the city, so I was looking forward to seeing the sights, just from really high up!

Created last year as part of the Olympic regeneration programme, the cable car connects two parts of London that previously would have taken quite some time to get to. Now with transport over the river, it can be used for commuters and tourists alike, opening up more of London to explore. It certainly looked like a lot of regeneration work was still taking place over in the docklands which is fantastic and means the Olympic legacy is still going strong.

Anyway, more on the journey itself! We decided just to go one way, from Greenwich to the Docklands, but you could go either way or a 360 trip if you wished. The trip itself takes less than 5 minutes and the experience up there is so magical and the views breathtaking. One of the cheapest attractions I have been to in London (the cost being so low as it is a mode of public transport) but yet one of the most incredible. I think the photos below just speak for themselves!

20130910 - Day in London-320130910 - Day in London-420130910 - Day in London-9

After a coffee stop, we headed to…well I had to… THE FLAGSHIP WHOLE FOODS STORE IN LONDON!! Located in Kensington, it really was quite a sight. You all know how much I love Whole Foods and this one was split on 3 floors, had a restaurant, at least 6 stations for the hot and cold food bars and just everything I could have possibly wished for! Sadly we didn’t have much time to spend here; I could have honestly stayed the whole day! We just needed to grab some lunch but that in itself was quite a dilemma as there was so much to choose from.  Luckily, well in terms of the decision making process, the restaurant didn’t have much that was to our liking (quite a lot of grains) so we were quickly able to count that out. The Kensington branch is also home to the SAF restaurant (Simple Authentic Food) with an ethos on healthy plant based ingredients – David and I have been enjoying their tasty raw crackers for a while now. We looked at their menu and, to be honest, there was so much delicious looking food to choose from that going here would in itself be a problem – it would take me an hour to decide what I wanted! So that left one option, an option I was very pleased with – off to the food bars! We decided to go for a cold food bar box (wanting a light meal rather than a heavier hot meal for walking around London) and I was not disappointed with the options and variety to choose from. It really was foodie heaven for David and I. Our wee Whole Foods in Glasgow only has one cold/hot food bar, cold on one side, hot on the other! Not that I would dismiss it at all, it rocks! But the Kensington bars were just nirvana! My only regret is that I didn’t take any photos, told you we were in a rush!

The speedy lunch however meant that we were just in time for attraction number two, and we didn’t want to be late for this one – Buckingham Palace!

It astounds me that I have never been here before, however this is probably due to it not being open. Buckingham Palace only opens its doors to the public for 2 months each year, while the Queen has her summer holiday at Balmoral in Scotland. So when we were looking into what to do in London, and saw the palace was open, we knew we had to make the most of the opportunity and pay a visit.

Booking our tickets online meant that we were given an allotted time slot, which made things a lot easier. I’m sure you can imagine how busy and popular the palace is to visitors!

The tour consists of an audio guide around the State rooms of the palace, with a particular focus this year on the Queens Coronation. I do love audio tours as I feel like you receive a great amount of information and you don’t miss out on any of the important bits. It was truly fantastic and the 2 hours just flew by! The most amazing part was seeing the Queen’s coronation dress and robes, simply stunning! Even though the palace is very grand it still feels like a home and there was a definite warmth to it. The staff were knowledgeable and oh so friendly, you could tell they just adore working there. The tour ends on a high at the back of the palace, where it opens out on to the gardens. The exit is about ½ a mile from the palace through the gardens and it was lovely to stroll along beside the lake. I can see why the Queen loves her garden.

I don’t have many photos as you couldn’t take any inside the palace but here are a few from the back. A really lovely way to spend the afternoon. If you are ever in London, and the Queen is not home, you really must pay a visit.

20130910 - Day in London-1020130910 - Day in London-1220130910 - Day in London-11