Lifestyle: The Diet Reboot

Whilst this post might have been better-timed a few weeks ago, when everyone was all fired up for the #NewYearNewMe, annual January fitness regimes etc, I wanted to hold off. I wanted to time to try out my new cookbooks, actually play around with some ingredients. In short, actually practice what I preach…

 photo The Diet Reboot_zpsbm0mx5qh.jpgI’m not currently trying to lose any weight, not really. I didn’t put on any over Christmas and my skinny jeans still fit. Instead I want to beat the bloating issue I have going on, tone up and generally feel a little healthier. I’d noticed my diet slipping towards the end of the year and quickly was back into a not-so-good gastro cycle. I knew it was time to sort it out pronto!

And so it was back to a higher-fat diet, less of the carbs, more of the protein and fibre. Sounds much less exciting, right?!

 photo The Diet Reboot 1_zpsge10szru.jpgI do like eating ‘clean’ though, more so than even I realise. I try to stick to the 80:20 rule, treating myself every so often (usually when W is with me – living together is going to be a huge test of my willpower!). Even so I was getting stuck for healthy recipe ideas. Courgetti is all well and good, but I was getting into a routine and just knew I’d be whacking out the Mac’n’Cheese if I didn’t mix it up. Amazon Prime came to the rescue though, and I was able to order a huge stack of cookbooks and ingredients to arrive the very next day. Oh how I love next-day delivery!
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Jamie’s Everyday Superfood

This was the book that reallllyyyy tempted brought me to break my cookbook-buying-ban of 2015 (I made it until December!). In all honest whilst the styling is absolutely gorgeous, most of the recipes and ingredients are just a little too inaccessible on a student budget. That said – the magic poached eggs are some of the yummiest things. This was the recipe that taught me the easiest way of poaching eggs (see here for my egg guide!) and adding fresh chilli is pure genius.

Hemsley Hemsley: The Art of Eating Well

This was top on my cookbook-wishlist, and it hasn’t disappointed. It’s full of colourful and healthy sound recipes – even picking it up for a read tempts me to make ‘good’ choices. I love the idea of thinking more about what I eat, eating cleaner and healthier. I’ve also been trying to follow the principle of “something raw with every meal” which this book has helped with perfectly – the Bacon, Red Cabbage and Pecan salad is divine!
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Infuser Water Bottle

I really do struggle to drink enough water – tea is my drink of choice thank you very much. I quite often will fail to get through even the smallest bottle of water in a whole day up on campus, so I hoped this would turn me around. It has improved my water intake, I’m tending to get through two of these a day which is such a significant improvement. The downside? It’s a bugger to wash, and my bladder won’t last through a fifty minute lecture…

Raw Cacao Powder

I’ve been after some of this stuff for months, and was really struggling to find some for a decent price. Turns out there’s a huge range of ingredients over on Amazon which are perfect for my healthy eating kick. This is great; high in protein, bags of flavour and it tastes so rich and chocolatey. Yum!
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Deliciously Ella (Books 1 & 2)

I was umm-ing and ahh-ing about the first book, mainly cos I’m as far away from a vegan as you can get. I mean, two of my favourite hastags on Instagram are #burgerporn and #yolkporn…I ended up getting Deliciously Ella for Christmas, so the Everyday Eating was first on my New Year New Me Amazon Wishlist. I love the fact that you definitely don’t need to be vegan to be hugely tempted by Ella’s recipes. In fact she advises using some of them as sides to meat or fish. And the breakfast ideas?! Heaven!
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Chia Seeds

One of my favourite ingredients, I love adding these to porridge for an extra boost. They have such a lovely, creamy texture and keep me full all morning. I also love using them to make instant ‘jam,’ but the real reason I ordered these? To finally give making energy balls a go. Something about them still really, really doesn’t appeal to me, but right now I think they are what I need. I often find myself a little shaky come 4pm so I reckon these are the perfect pick-me-up snack. We shall see!

Amazon Student was definitely a life-saver when it came to making a split-decision to clean up my eating. If you haven’t heard of Amazon Student, it’s discounted Amazon Prime for students. For just £39 (with a free six-month trial too!) you get access to Prime Video, Prime Music, and my favourite… next day delivery. Thanks to Amazon Student my bits and bobs were with me next day, and having ordered so much over the last few months I now know roughly when my order will turn up on any given day (embarrassing right?!). I’ll certainly be sorry when my student status ends come summer!

*Post in collaboration with Amazon

Are you an Amazon fan? What are your favourite ‘clean eating’ ingredients?

Lifestyle: Exercising At Home

Gyms are all very well and good, but at £25+ a month I just can’t justify the cost. I was planning on signing up over my placement year, but said gym is the other side of town from where I am living, and I don’t feel comfortable with the walk in the dark. Sure, I still go swimming on occasional weekends but the majority of my exercise is done at home, in my teeny tiny room.

 photo 2015-02-08 17.08.52_zpsztvdyxqu.jpgI’m planning on heading out for proper runs as soon as the evenings lighten up – which shouldn’t be long now as there’s now enough light to see the keyhole when I get back (I was shining my phone at the door last week – note to self: ring council to fix street light). I’ll be using the Couch-to-5k program, but my real goal? I really, really, really want to run a 10k by the end of the year. I wasn’t going to mention it here, but I’m feeling that telling you all with give me motivation. Feel free to nag me if I get lazy!

 photo 2015-02-08 16.05.34_zpsfrjcw865.jpg photo 2015-02-08 16.04.36_zpsmpi05k2t.jpgI’ve also been loving the motivation from Youtube videos – this one is my current favourite although I find it really tough. I’m not really a huge fan of celebrity exercise DVDs, but I’ve enjoyed Charlotte’s 3 Minute Belly Blitz. The exercises are actually really fun, and it’s not too teeth-grittingly cheesy. 3 Minutes is a total lie, the Warm Up is 5+ minutes, but the actual routines are quick, fast-paced and seem to be having the desired effect. I find them fun too, with the best part being they don’t require too much space. Thanks to Cash Generator for sending me this!

 photo 2015-02-08 17.10.53_zpskjeaus1h.jpgI’ve also been doing some of these 3-day Challenges – my favourite being the Squat one. I do them twice a day. In the morning I use the time it takes to boil the kettle (now I’m on 150 I’m filling it up a bit more!), in the evening I just slot it in after whatever other workout I’ve done. I’ve been skipping rest days too, as I really struggle the next day! The Lunge one I’m taking slowly as my technique is poor, and I’m struggling through the Tricep Dips. I’m picking up an exercise mat this week to start on the Abs too!

 photo 2015-02-08 17.11.17_zpstde8mprn.jpgFinally, weights. I’m not after muscle, but I am after tone, and using light weights is actually making a real difference. I don’t do an awful lot with them at the moment, but just a few reps in between more fast-paced cardio bits is fine for now. Once I’ve lost weight I’ll be upping the toning!

Alongside this I’ve been eating healthier, taking low-fat soups to work and cutting down on the tea. Dinners are more packed with vegetables, and I’ve really cut down on white processed carbs. I must admit I am finding that tough, I was far more reliant on pasta and potato than I realised. Keep an eye out for more healthy recipes over the next few weeks…

Do you have a gym membership, or do you exercise at home? Tell me about your routine!


Recipe: Thriftiest Lentil Soup

I really had to tighten up the purse strings this January. A couple of unexpected expenses and a weekend away (I spent last weekend in Oxford) meant there wasn’t much going spare. This soup was a lifesaver – ingredients I already had, but it was a completely different flavour and texture to what I was already eating. It added much needed variety but, most importantly, it was absolutely delicious.

 photo 0cbb1fbe-246f-48a3-a8b7-0fe174a24ede_zpsl50yjsmu.jpgOne of the best soups I’ve made. The idea came from Lottie, but I can’t say I hugely enjoyed the soup when I first tasted it. I panicked, added more garlic, and a load of fresh lemon juice. I found the zing really changed the soup, and I would definitely recommend it. I also liked stirring a cube or two of frozen spinach in, hence the green stuff. I’ve made it again since and simplified it down, so here’s the easy version!

It’s a pretty versatile soup too. The first night I ate it, I had it with some sausages. I ate it with a small slice of bread for lunch at work. I poached some chicken in the last (more liquid) portion. And at around 175 calories per portion according to MyFitnessPal it’s pretty much guilt free, so enjoy!

Ingredients (made 6 good sized bowlfuls)

  • 1/2 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 5 carrots (mine were pretty small)
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g red lentils
  • 1l of chicken stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon

 photo 5bcf6628-5b1c-4d92-aed2-1ee2e2cf89cd_zpspw9csodi.jpgPeel and quarter each clove of garlic Finely dice the rest of the veg, and throw into a pan with a teeny dribble of oil and the garlic. Put on the lowest heat possible for a few minutes. Add the cumin and the thyme, turn the heat up, and fry until fragrant. Stir so it doesn’t catch and burn,

 photo c99219dd-f241-4ace-b30a-0ae2c8d330c0_zpsu9bpy9oc.jpgAdd the lentils and the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the lemon juice and serve, or cool and portion up. This freezes well, but also stores in the fridge for a good couple of days. Add spinach on reheating, if you like

>This is one of the only soups I didn’t get bored of after two days. It’s also especially good with Sainsbury’s Multigrain and Rye Bread, which I’ve become addicted to. I really should start making my own again…

Do you have a favourite soup recipe? What’s the cheapest meal you make?

Recipe: Asian Steak Salad

When I’m trying to be healthier, my go-to flavours are Asian; Thai, Vietnamese. Fresh, vibrant and aromatic. They instantly brighten up what should be a dull plate of veg, add life, and make things ten times tastier. I always find they fill me up a lot more too.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.10.13_zpsn6lc6hz5.jpgThis salad was inspired by wandering around the aisles of Morrisions (seriously, the one kinda near me is amazing!) for nearly an hour. Their fresh produce was amazing, and after a carb-laden lunch (read more on Saturday) we wanted to lighten things up. The steak came about because chicken  (free range, that actually tastes of something) is expensive. Turns out that with the right ingredients, the thin cuts of cheaper frying steak are more than delicious. I’ll definitely be picking up more of these.

 photo 2015-01-10 19.54.37_zpsenqrwzl9.jpgSteak is also a lot, lot quicker to cook than chicken. These only had a minute on each side, and to be honest I wouldn’t even give them that next time. You can have this salad ready within about 15 minutes of walking through the door. And the dressing? Add noodles and leftover salad – there’s lunch for tomorrow. It also works perfectly to add extra zing to a noodle soup.

Ingredients (for 1, but makes extra dressing)

  • Frying steak
  • 1/2 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli (check the heat by tasting a little bit, and adjust the amount accordingly)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • A splash of soy sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Squeeze of honey
  • Coriander
  • Salad – we went for julienned carrot, watercress and a small amount of onion
  • Sesame seeds – optional, only to top the salad, but we really enjoyed them

 photo 2015-01-10 19.54.57_zpsupq9ewg4.jpgBegin by making the dressing. Finely chop the ginger, chilli and garlic together. Add to a small bowl or mug, then pour over the sauces, lime and honey. Mix together, taste, and add more of an ingredient if you think it needs it.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.01.22_zpsith0jknh.jpgToss your salad together with your coriander.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat, with a teeny amount of oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, and flash fry extremely quickly until just cooked.

Cover the steaks with foil to rest briefly, and tip any sauces from the pan into the dressing.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.08.46_zpsqci8hzwi.jpgToss the salad in the dressing, top with the steak, sprinkle over sesame seeds and serve. I added a teeny bit of rice to mine (and a lot of rice to W’s) but it honestly didn’t need it.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.09.54_zpsyk0ey3wo.jpgThe perfect diet meal!

What’s your favourite healthy recipe?

Recipe: The Healthier Mac’n’Cheese

I loveeee Mac’nCheese. There’s just something so comforting about soft pasta, silky sauce, and an almost crunchy topping. Possibly mixed with bacon as per my boyfriend’s recipe, maybe with some spices added. I’m wanting to experiment with a fresh-chilli mac after the gorgeous side I scoffed from Mother Clucker. But it’s not the healthiest meal, and as a result it’s saved for a special treat.

 photo 4fb9dacd-00b9-4020-ab50-d1deb97658db_zpsb7644b64.jpgMy version of The Londoner’s one-pan mac is definitely good for saving a few calories, and is probably the healthiest one I’ve found. But it lacks for me what is the best bit, the baked top. I’ve tried baking it but the sauce just solidifies. A couple of tries later, all in the name of research, and now I present you this recipe. Creamy, tangy, cheesy sauce, lightly spiced. Perfectly coated macaroni pasta. And a cheesy top that goes delightfully gooey and crispy. YUM.

 photo 859778e8-1e38-421f-b244-8a332c9c7634_zps48ee24cb.jpgIngredients

  • Pasta – I went for 50g of macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat creme fraiche
  • 1/2 teaspoon of mustard
  • 1 small matchbox sized chunk of cheese (i.e. a ‘proper’ serving)
  • A sprinkle of polenta

 photo a91929f3-a68c-4487-a872-255507925aa3_zps1d300b67.jpgFirst off, cook your pasta. You want to slightly undercook it, so chop a minute off the cooking time. Drain, but leave a little water in the pan (just enough to cover the base).

 photo 7ff743b0-1d0c-4a19-af22-5205619048fe_zpse1176bae.jpg photo 25884205-d907-4291-b358-2b830388487d_zps26ac0f16.jpgReturn to a low heat, and add the creme fraiche, mustard, and lots of black pepper. Add 3/4 of the cheese to the sauce, and stir until melted, combined and creamy.

 photo 2b0fd4cb-2388-4c31-bef4-de94f26eff20_zps5ed8dc32.jpgPour into a baking dish, and top with the remaining cheese. Slice it very thinly so it covers the whole dish. Sprinkle lightly with polenta, then bake for 15 or so minutes, until bubbling and golden. Yep – silly me forgot the polenta when I made this to photograph. It tastes damn good without it, just slightly less crispy.

 photo 3bf1c5f6-6442-4dad-a4aa-fbd3b2a55952_zps2e1cf470.jpgServe with a big crunchy salad, and you’ve got a comforting meal without the guilt. And it’s quick, and the pan doesn’t take half as much elbow grease to wash up as a proper cheese sauce. I know what I’m having for dinner tonight…

What’s your favourite meal? Do you have any tricks to make it healthier?

Lifestyle: Little Changes

I’m on a bit of a major health kick right now. Some of it’s down the vainness; I feel awful about my bodyshape, unattractive and unfit. But mainly it’s down to my health. I’ve had pretty regular bouts of illness since I was 14, and whilst an operation has helped a little, I’m determined to do as much as I can to really sort myself out.

 photo 163700a6-4190-4b40-9d33-5ef4cf2e9273_zps06a95ee7.jpgA bit of a confession here now, I’ve never had the healthiest relationship with ‘diets’. I can take them a little bit too far, or I can go completely the opposite way. I’ll do both on consecutive days to “cancel the other out.” This time I’m determined to get healthy properly. There will be no diet, no restrictions, and hopefully no beating myself up if I treat myself (though that will take some self control!). Instead it’s all about little, gradual changes. Changes to get a healthier lifestyle, to find my natural weight, to balance the good and the “bad” foods.

 photo d98707c8-3d45-444c-99e9-148a9fcf5c1a_zps507c87d1.jpgSome of my (numerous) milky, sugary teas are being swapped for herbal varieties. I’ve got to admit I’m not loving this green tea, though I quite like Cranberry & Raspberry. There’s a Dragonfruit variety that occasionally appears at work which I love, but I’ve not found it in store yet. That mid-afternoon snack on crisps? I’ve turned it into a cuppa-soup if it’s chilly, or a handful of nuts if it’s the crunch I’m craving. I’m working on a spicy-roasted nut recipe to share, but it’s not quite there yet.

 photo 8b717978-729a-49f9-9457-b4b8130ffcfa_zps8f87cdd1.jpgLunches have been switched up. My normal lunch has for the past 6(+!) years been a ham roll on wholemeal bread, ready salted crisps and some squash. I’ve been leaving out the crisps, adding fruit, and occasionally some carrot sticks with a dip. If I have some interested leftovers, I’d throw them in the microwave at work. And at least 2 weeks out of 4 I’ll make a big batch of soup for the week, alongside homemade bread. I’d make it more often, but I have limited freezer space! I’ve also been working on a more budget friendly version of The Londoner’s noodle recipe, and I think it’s also ready to share!

 photo bf292794-af45-4412-9952-eb3ca471cf38_zps1543252b.jpgThe biggest change I’ve made has been ditching the sugary squash. It was tough at first (I actually got the shakes!), but I think I’m also there. I still can’t stand the taste of water, but filtering it through a Water-to-Go Bottle* and adding flavour really helps. When I’m around the house I’ll infuse (get me!) my water with lemon and ginger, or lime if I’m feeling even fancier. That’s not particularly practical when I’m out and about, but I’ve fallen in love with these Enhance* drinks. One squeeze flavours my water enough to make me stomach it, but not so much that it tastes sweet. They taste like actual fruit, and I definitely have stock-piled since they’ve been on offer in ADSA. The orange-y flavour is my favourite. Pretty sure the pics on the website make them extra strong, as mine barely add any colour. But they sure taste good!

 photo 3623b71d-278e-459e-b287-c66f9660aa91_zpseac16505.jpgExercise is something I’m slowly getting there with. I’ve been timing my walk to work, and challenging myself to beat my best times. My trainers still don’t quiteee fit comfortably (I dropped a cupboard door on my foot the weekend after buying them) so running still isn’t happening. But I picked up a set of weights in Aldi, and I’ve been following a few Youtube videos (I love the dance-with-weights type ones!). A few squats before bed, and some pretty lame sit-ups, my fitness is slowly getting somewhere near acceptable.

 photo f51be350-d5b8-4398-b9d8-1a21d2ec87f6_zps0191ae2c.jpgI’ve got a long way to go, mainly due to my emotional hurdles attached with my bodyshape, and a few of eating certain things in case it sets of my stomach issues. It’s all about baby steps for me, and I reckon that’s how it should be. No point in jumping right into a complete change of lifestyle, but switch up little things, make it sustainable. I’m certainly hoping I keep it up!

Are you on a New Year health kick? Any tips for getting fit on a budget without damaging my foot anymore? Got ideas of healthy meals?