April ‘Appenings

Can you tell I’m struggling to think up a title each time for these monthly posts? I will still need another A for August and just the one was hard enough.

I’ve resorted to improper English. Say it in a Yorkshire accent and I reckon it just about works.

So yes it’s the end of April. Already! Wow that really did fly by. So what’s happened for me this month? Apart from a new haircut, bleached to blonde and dyed back to brown again, that’s about it. Yes that’s the most exciting my life really does get. Not forgetting time spent gathering up the best bits to share with all you lovely readers.

I feel like I’ve neglected the blog recently, I’ve been ferrying around London and and up and down the country on trains, so there hasn’t been much time in my kitchen for some recipe crushing. Well, there has been a few baking attempts, majority of which ended up in the bin, let’s just forget about those. But panic not. I have some things waiting in the pipeline. A new dip recipe – perhaps I should change the blog name to ‘In Homage To Hummus’ it’s becoming a recurring theme – and talking about beans, a little sweet treat for that 4pm afternoon slump. For now, here’s what’s been ‘appening this April.

 

#1 Black patent trench coat, M&S

April showers. The saying has never rang truer. The past four weeks have included weather from all the seasons, sun, warmth, clouds, rain, hail, wind and snow. YEPP you read that right. It makes getting dressed in the morning incredibly difficult. A huge winter puffer coat isn’t really necessary (it’s still not packed away for winter yet…) but a light leather jacket is just too thin, and I don’t care about functionality there is no way I’m wearing a rain coat or pac-a-mac. Ok, it’s trench coat time. I bought this coat last year from M&S, before any mumsy thoughts pop into your mind your mum would have to be pretty sassy to wear this for the school pick up. A black patent trench coat, that squeaks when you move your arms. I just love it. Having been a fan of a classic trench coat for a few years, that beige colour that goes with EVERYTHING, this little black number is here to mix things up a bit.  And no you can never have too many shoes, coats and handbags. I will sit firmly on that mantra.

 

#2 Sunflower Seed Milk

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Have you ever made your own nut milk? If not and you need a little help, see this post, if you’re not a newbie perhaps it’s only almond you’ve attempted. Cashew maybe has been blitzed or you’ve even stretched as far as hazelnut (that in a chocolate milkshake would be utter heaven). I’m a bit obsessed with seeds lately, I’m trying to reduce my consumption of nuts as sometimes it becomes a bit excessive (particular when in the form of nut butter) so I seem to be turning towards their seedy friends for a dose of protein and healthy fats. I’ve been seeing many fellow bloggers making hemp seed milk recently, I reckon it would be lush and creamy, but alas I had ran out of hemp seeds. It’d been a good while since I last had a nut milk DIY sesh as I’m not entirely sure it works out any cheaper, it is a bit of a messy faff, it’s not fortified with vitamins and minerals we’re missing from not eating dairy but ignoring all of that the taste is miles miles better. I soaked some sunflower seeds for around four hours, drained and added 4 times the amount of water, a pinch of salt and blended it all up. A quick strain led to a subtle flavoured milk, lightly sweet which of course was drank up wayyyyy too quickly. Give it a try, pumpkin seed milk will turn out a lovely pastel green and sesame seeds will have that bitter toasty flavour we love so much about tahini. It’s not an everyday thing, but once in a while some proper nut and seed milk is called for.

 

#3 Masterchef

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Masterchef is back, and it doesn’t get tougher than this. Although it seems only moments ago when it was last on telly. I love a good TV competition and the fact that this one also includes food, well it’s a no-brainer. John Torode and Greg Wallace host the UK version of the show, I’m not sure if it’s me but has Greg been coming out with some ludicrous innuendos this time around, a bit much for the BBC I would have thought, and he’s definitely no Nigella. It’s the perfect week night show that you can lie on the sofa and let your mind wander, forget about the stressors of everyday life and get stressed instead at the contestants making yet ANOTHER chocolate fondant that isn’t cooked enough and instead serve a plate of molten goo. Find it on BBC 1 or catch up on iPlayer.

 

#4 The First Mess cookbook

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I’ve been a fan of Laura Wrights’ blog, The First Mess for some time now. A vegan plant-based centric delight to your eyes and your belly, using beautiful produce and no weird meat substitute business. Her cookbook came out earlier this year and with it being published in America and Canada and not here in the UK, I had to wait WEEKS for it to arrive. Oh but the wait was worth it.  I’ve already earmarked a number of recipes, particularly the miso turmeric chickpea scramble, fluffiest multigrain pancakes, sunshine crackers and a whipped chipotle lentil dip, all of which will be made ASAP. The photography is beautiful and everything looks doable with no need for fancy machines like dehydrators and sprouters which are a common feature in most vegan books. Take a look at her blog with the same name, The First Mess and follow her on Instagram @thefirstmess.

 

#5 Asparagus

What? It’s asparagus season? Perhaps my favourite of the vegetable family that I wait around allllllll year for, then fit it into as many meals possible between the months of April and June. Breakfast, lunch and dinner it will be sneaking onto my plate. FUN FACT: ever noticed that your wee smells after eating asparagus? It seems only 40% of us, more likely in women, have this ability to smell the particular whiff, all due to having a certain gene. I’m of the more dominant 60% of the population and don’t understand what all the fuss is about, but if you can smell it or not, it is definitely not going to affect my consumption. Green asparagus is most common here, but in the Mediterranean countries white asparagus tends to be a speciality and if you’re very lucky you might even come across the purple variety. Make sure to use it before we lose it again for another year!

 

For us in the UK it is the time of many bank holidays, the very beginning and very end of the month, time to spend picnicking, playing in parks, cooking up feasts and an extra day to relax (or party hard and spend the day in bed recovering). However you wish to spend yours, enjoy it fully with all of your heart doing what truly nourishes your soul.

Until then.

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Gluten free is a no-go for me

Gluten free. Saying “bye bye” to bread and cakes and everything in between – been there, done that, bought the Tshirt, ripped it up and now it is in the bin.

Nothing as drastic as that in reality, but in my mind that’s the relief I now feel.

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Being ‘gluten free’ in the UK is a common phrase. You could say, ‘it’s having a moment’. We overhear conversations in the street, see it on menus in restaurants, aisles dedicated to products of the kind are growing bigger and bigger in the supermarkets, and companies are using it on their packaging as a marketing ploy for people to buy it, as gluten free means it’s healthier….

HOWEVER if you are coeliac or have Crohn’s Disease, gluten most definitely should be steered well clear of. Thankfully for those of you unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with coeliacs diease the quality of gluten free products has improved drastically over the past few years, people are more aware of what it entails and being actually able to eat something other than lettuce leaves is proving easier than ever.

Back to the gluten free tribe. We seem to have had this idea hammered into our minds that a food with the gluten removed is virtuous. Gluten is the devil that is causing all of our ailments in this modern day. Bloating, constipation, leaky gut, headaches, weight gain, depression, you name it gluten will the reason and once removed you will be healthy and this aura of wellness will surround you forevermore. Scrolling through Instagram you see bloggers saying how they’re gluten, dairy and wheat free excluding it completely from their diets and vowing to never eat some sliced white again. In the news, guaranteed there is a headline at least once a week stating that cutting gluten from your diet will be the magic cure supposedly to cancer and Alzheimer’s (?!?!?). I used to believe, wandering down the free from aisle in Tesco, that I was doing myself some good. Picking up that gluten free bread, perhaps some bakewell tarts and a box of gluten free granola (all gluten and dairy free of course), that I was being healthy. Still eating toast with jam (more, jam with toast in my case), snacking on sweet pastries and cakes and baking with gluten free flours convinced that what I was doing was the right thing. As I’m sure many still do.

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In cafes we see cakes, cookies and brownies – without the gluten – appearing more and more frequently. I’d assume the thought passes through most peoples’ minds, that they wouldn’t dream of having a piece of normal cake, but that gluten free brownie is a no brainier. Compare the ingredients of your usual bread and its gluten free counterpart. First thing you will surely notice is the huge markup in price for something which is at least half the size, it feels like a dense rock and there will be so many unknown ingredients and added things you wouldn’t expect to see in bread to just keep it all stuck together. Next try the gluten free brownie, I’m reckoning the sugar content will be much higher as when you remove one thing it has to be replaced with something else to keep the flavour. And what’s cheaper than white sugar and vegetable fats?

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So what even is gluten? Well, it’s a protein. Gluten is not bread. Found naturally in wheat, spelt, rye and barley and added to convenience foods and sauces where it is used as a thickener. It’s what gives bread that good bounce and chew, and ensures your cake isn’t a pile of crumbs. So it is not the maker of all evil or spawn of the devil it is in fact protein. Perhaps by removing gluten from our diets we are missing out on a source of protein, which is something we all seem to be striving for more of nowadays?

If you’ve ever tried excluding something from your diet you will know how much of a shadow it casts over your life. You see the evictee everywhere you look, bread rolls shopping for milk, toast running for the bus, and croissants playing football in the street. You want it more and more, crave bread at every meal, spend hours in your day searching for where to eat with gluten free options, worrying about that pizza night your friends are planning and what you are going to eat and in the end probably end up crying into half a loaf of bread and butter.

Sucks to be gluten free.

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So, yes, of course if you feel like you have some digestive issues go and see your doctor or a nutritionist or dietitian to get that thing checked out. Don’t cut things out of your diet ‘cos your best friend told you to’, or you want to be as skinny as that blogger on Instagram and she doesn’t eat gluten. Think about the poor people who are coeliac and have to avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. It isn’t a choice for them. Don’t go on a ‘gluten free diet’ to lose weight, if the bread basket is placed in front of you and you fancy some, have some bread, it’s NOT going to kill you!

I have most definitely stopped that gluten free escapade well in its tracks. I now struggle to get through a weekend without a visit to our local baker for a loaf of sourdough, and if that’s not accessible there’s always a stash of rye bread in my freezer. At work if there’s some Danish pastry going free, no way on earth am I going to pass that up, and I am never going to a pay a premium for gluten free oats when oats naturally are gluten free in the first place!! On the sourdough note, due to the grains being fermented it is far more digestible than breads using commercial yeast, never mind tasting better due to a longer prove, so sourdough sure is the way to go.

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When you switch to a wholefoods based diet, or even increase the amount of fruits, veggies, wholegrains and legumes on your plate, you will notice that as a result you are eating less gluten. I’m not preaching here, if you want to go by that label then please do, but for me I find it better to not put up any fences between me and bread. No I don’t eat it everyday, I don’t eat white pasta, or pizza on a regular basis, not for the reason that they contain gluten, more for the fact that I base my diet on lovely veggies, beans, nuts and wholegrains. When I have pasta it’s either wholemeal or spelt and if I go out for a pizza it will be a bloody good one (not one rummaed from the freezer).

This is one of the latest trendy diets, but just don’t fall for it. Save your money for an occasional treat, that coffee from your favourite café, a massage, a dinner out with a loved one, or visit your local shops to buy some local produce and cook up a mega meal. Lots of plants is where it seems to be at, and I reckon it will be sticking around for a long time. And this diet sure ain’t a fad, this one’s a keeper!

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March moments

It’s here again, another month has passed by and March is coming to its end. This past week it has turned from Winter to Springtime, when on Saturday the clocks here in the UK SPRANG forward one hour. Waking to bright gleaming mornings with the birds cheeping is my favourite thing about this time of year. I always like to leave my curtains slightly open to let the sunlight beam through the gap and wake me up gradually. There seems to be an aura around this season, once the dreary weight of winter has lifted we all wander round with the sun on our faces (if we’re lucky) and a rosiness to our cheeks. Walks outdoors without the numerous layers, the arrival of gloriously pink rhubarb, knobbly asparagus and those grubby Jersey Royal potatoes and daffodils and crocuses peeping out from the soil. Not to forget the baby lambs that will soon be dotting the fields, spring is the moment for new life and beginnings in nature and in our lives too. Perhaps adding a new thing into your daily routine like a morning stretch, having a good ‘spring clean’ of your wardrobe or kitchen cupboards or starting that creative project you have always had on the backburner, it is the perfect time for that. These brighter longer days leave us brimming with boundless energy as we come out of hibernation and back into the world outside our front doors.

Not that this months’ musings have been getting me outside, the majority of March has been cold and very very rainy. Cherishing these last winter moments has been my port of call, wrapped in a blanket in my pyjamas. That’s the one thing that is so great about winter, but so long for now and we shall see you in 6 months time.

 

#1 Blogilates

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I’m not a runner. How I wish I was. Neither am I the sort to go to the gym or do a HIIT workout being shouted at to go faster, faster. FASTER!

no thank you very much.

Now exercise is vital for me, but I have learnt over the past year or so that heart racing and sweat inducing activities aren’t what my body responds to well. I find my long limbs cumbersome, and the words BABY GIRAFFE spring to mind. I like to exercise to improve my muscle tone, remain flexible and most importantly keep my mind in check. The only way I find this possible is by doing activities that I enjoy and mixing it up a little to not get bored. For those of you as lazy as me, and don’t want to make yourself look half decent before getting hot and flustered again, the stay at home workout will be just for you. I like to do workout videos on YouTube and Blogilates has been my go to this month. Cassey makes exercising fun. TRULY! Each video is only around 10 or 15 minutes long so it doesn’t need to take hours out of your already busy schedules, but I can guarantee you will finish with quaking abs, breath deepened and a slight sweat on your brow. Give Blogiates a go, and trust me you will get addicted!

 

#2 A Man Called Ove

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After going through all my books to read on my kindle I was rather stuck. I tend to go to my mum for recommendations but considering I’d read them all it was up to me to find the next good read. We do have a very similar taste, my mum and I. Post-apocalyptic Earth or sci fi always tend to feature, but sometimes you just don’t want to be reading about one of the many possibilities that our lives on this planet will come to an end or about being probed by aliens. Sometimes you just need a good giggle and maybe a little cry too. that’s all that I’m asking for. I came across this book, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a New York Times bestseller which tends to mean its a good’un. Dark humour, heart-warming merged with sadness, a book about life (I’m sure the main characters many of you will find quite relatable). If you’re stuck for what to read next, I really do recommend this, and if you’ve already read it please do give me your recommendations. I’m open to anything, the only thing it has to be is GOOD!!

 

#3 Beauty and the Beast

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It has always been my favourite of the Disney films. For my 6th birthday I got the Christmas Belle outfit so of course wore it to my party, and consequently it still fitted me when I was 16 so wore it to a Halloween party, albeit it was very short. I always wanted to be Belle when I was younger, and when I think back now its not the best goal in life to want to achieve – pretty much unattainable – thank god since then I have formed some other aspirations. The classic Disney film has now been made remade into a new film for 2017 but this time it isn’t animated. It came out the other week so me and my mum had a lovely lunch out together followed by Beauty and the Beast. We did both come out of it crying and singing ‘Be Our Guest’ for the rest of the day. Full of all the same songs as the original, sometimes a bit of showy flamboyancy (that’s for the 3D) but apart from that it really is such a good film and one that I’m glad I didn’t wait for to come on the telly. If this sunny weather doesn’t persist go and watch it in the cinema, you will want to clap at the end, we did!

 

#4 Burford Brown Eggs

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Eggs. Whether they’re poached, scrambled or fried whichever way you take yours the yolk has to be golden and oozy right? RIGHT. When buying eggs I feel you have to buy the best you can afford, always free range and preferably organic. I try to buy local when I can too, but sometimes that’s just not practical and a trip to the supermarket has to suffice. I’ve recently been buying the Burford Brown Eggs, they have a speckley brown shell with promise of a deep orange yolk. The rare breed hens are fed a vegetarian diet rich in corn ensuring that deeply coloured yolk. Yes you do have to pay a little more for them but this ensures the birds have a nice life and have the option to roam, also not forgetting the flavour surely that’s the most important thing of all. You can find them in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Co-op and many health food shops across the country.

 

#5 Kefir

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One of my favourite programs was back this month on the BBC, Trust Me I’m a Doctor. A show debunking the myths and giving us the facts backed up by scientific proof. It’s ever so interesting and obviously with the rise of healthier lifestyles there is a lot of episodes featuring the latest trends and whether or not they work. Think turmeric, nitrates for improved exercise performance, and most recently probiotics. In this episode they were researching wheather probiotics (in the form of a supermarket yogurt drink), prebiotics (the foods that feed your gut bacteria like bananas, onions and artichokes-things high in inulin) or fermented foods (in this case kefir) was the most beneficial for our gut health. After a few weeks of testing they came to the conclusion that fermented foods are the things that will actually increase the number of good bacteria in our guts. So on the back of this of course I had to have a go myself.

I’ve had many attempts in the past – majority failed – of DIY fermented foods, sauerkraut, a killed sourdough starter, abandoned kombucha (to name a few). Kefir is made simply from some grains that you leave to ferment in whole organic milk for 24 hours, after this it thickens and turns slightly sour (think pouring yogurt) with a fizzy effervescence. Lovely on muesli instead of milk, as a substitute for buttermilk or yogurt in baking, blended into a smoothie or just drank straight up! Now though I do have a glut in my fridge at home, so I’m on the search for recipes to get it used up.

 

I can’t  wait until next month to share all my new discoveries and findings, but until then.

Love and sunny wishes for April and beyond

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