Self Care is important

“Self care” always seems a very millennial term to me. My mum often ends phone calls telling me to “look after yourself” and I think for me this isn’t about living extravagantly or being greedy with food or possessions. It’s more being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself even when things feel bleak and not going to extremes to make yourself feel better.

Caring for oneself might not be flashy, it might not give you the best social media following or Instagrammable moments 24/7 but it can keep you going when things get tough or when you’re feeling burnt out.

Here are some things that always help me when life starts getting on top of me (for whatever reason):

1. Have a bath. If you’re like me and your wonderful family and friends buy you a lot of bath stuff for Christmas or birthdays keep a stash to feel like a treat. There’s nothing like using something lovely smelling to lift your mood.

2. Soul food. There’s nothing like cooking the sort of thing you used to be fed when you were growing up to make you feel a bit better. If you’re really struggling with life even a bowl of kids cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals and soup is cheap and filling (souper).

3. Take one thing off your list. In my job I write lists to help me to remember what I have to do and I encourage the people of my team to keep lists. I advise you, if you’re feeling truly overwhelmed with everything you expect to get done be realistic. Are you really going to have time for everything? You don’t have to be superwoman. Take something of your list to ease the pressure if it’s not an urgent task.

4. Sort out your socks. This is a silly one but tidying and cleaning helps you feel in control (this from a messy person!) and I realized just this weekend but actually wearing matching socks helps with the overall feeling of taking some pride in your appearance.

5. Spend time with loved ones. When life gets hard it is so easy to withdraw but I promise you company will help. Even if you’re sitting drinking tea at your friends house or playing games with your siblings. Don’t doubt the magic of spending time with people where you can just be yourself.

6. Get outside. See some nature. Get some fresh air. Blow those cobwebs away. Simple.

7. If you have a pet there is literally nothing nicer than them coming up to you and nuzzling you. I know not everyone is an animal person but if you are you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

Be kind to yourself ladies and gentlemen.

New Years Day – Small Changes

At New Year I think we can all confidently say that we are inundated with two opposing forces in both mainstream and social media. These being the concept of “New Year New You” or the alternate view of “making resolutions is pointless as you never stick to them anyway”.

While for most of us a complete lifestyle overhaul is unobtainable and daunting there are so many small steps you can do to make yourself feel better. It often seems to me that the whole wellness thing that really exploded between 2016 was difficult for us to stick to, expensive to obtain ingredients and often impractical for fitting into a family routine. Just ask me about the time I tried a kale smoothie and thought I was eating grass; or the time I tried the paleo diet and it was the best thing ever until the day I started crying because I was hormonal and desperately wanted some oven chips.

However, I am as guilty as anyone for letting myself think that means I can lose sight of healthier living altogether. I noticed my face becoming increasingly moon like in November and took myself in hand for the 6 weeks prior to Christmas. Here were my smallest changes, but I actually enjoyed the little challenges posed and I got a bit of a spring in my step.

So here are a few suggestions to help you along with a healthier year:

  1. If possible take advantage of your local parkrun. This is a fantastic event run solely by volunteers. Basically its a weekly Saturday morning 5k run. There’s runners of all abilities and its so well run and everyone is really encouraging, even when you’re just starting out. To be honest I am a terrible runner. My gait is like that of Kermit the frog, but the fresh air and actually doing the 5k gives me such a sense of achievement whenever I attend and you can see how you’re improving from your time each week. Its completely free and you can sign up here.
  2. Just try and do more active things at the weekend. Swim, go to a trampoline park, ride your bikes. D and I did a walk around Ripley today and it blew away the cobwebs away and we saw some beautiful countryside.
  3. Stop with the fizzy drinks, especially diet drinks. Full sugar fizzy drinks have so much sugar and you probably don’t really notice you’re drinking empty calories. Diet drinks seem like a sensible alternative but they’re still pretty acidic and the sweeteners can actually contribute towards you putting on weight. I have basically cut put my fizzy drink vice in favour or tea, coffee and water and I think this contributed to weight loss more than anything else and since I stopped having fizzy drinks I noticed I enjoy sweet treats way more.
  4. Identify when you eat the worst. I am a great boredom eater at the weekend and tended to snack after we did our food shop. I also always used to get to lunchtime at work and convince myself I had worked hard enough to justify caramel shortbread from the canteen. Breaking the caramel shortbread habit was straightforward enough as it because something of an ongoing gag between myself and my friends at work but the boredom eating was a challenge. We ended up food shopping at a different time of day to avoid this habit (we also saved money buying fewer sweeties).
  5.  On prepackaged food look at the traffic lights. When you’re out and want a snack this is a great way to grab a snack without it disrupting a basic healthy lifestyle.
  6. Don’t be hard on yourself all the time. Life is to be enjoyed and enjoying good food and wine with family and friends is part of this. Give yourself time to relax and stress less about what you’re eating and just enjoy being with people you care about and have a good time.

Have a happy new year.

A change of scene

You may have noticed a period of quiet, perhaps some tumbleweed blowing through my little slice of the internet. Its been far from intentional, I still enjoy cooking and finding new spots of food, but I find lately my quest for a full stomach is not as all consuming. When I first started this blog, I was almost a different person. Almost a shadow of who I am now, having just moved to a new place, starting to make friends and not really wanting to admit that my university relationship was nearly over. Not as confident to pursue hobbies and ambitions and to be honest not really knowing what I wanted.

Anyway, time heals many things and having some stability at home (thanks boyfriend! thanks parents!) and more disposable income (thank you work!) made it easier to pursue more interests. But I found I was posting less on here and I don’t want to neglect what was perhaps my first adult passion. Blogging and writing in general. I do still love writing about food, writing new recipes and taking restaurant recommendations. In some ways I actually prefer writing about food now; I feel like I found my rhythm as a writer, quick and (usually) healthy recipes for people pushed for time, with the occasional longer recipe to enjoy over a weekend. Crowd pleasing recipes when you have larger groups to entertain. Stuff I as a woman approaching 30 would want to read myself.

However, life is so much more than food. I want to wax lyrical about the books I read, about the raw elegance of music on vinyl, why you should consider taking part in a Park Run, fashion preferences. Life through the eyes of a food lover, rather than a life led entirely by food.

D and I have discussed remastering some of the older favourites and starting some sort of youtube channel based on this blog. Simple recipes to appeal to cooks of all abilities. So the food writing and learning how to cook with more skill and precision won’t really be going anywhere, I just want this venture to keep growing and developing the same way I have over the years.

Plus, you know, food always did taste better when life was lived enough to work up an appetite.

Check yourself this Movember

14 November may be a little late to start growing a moustache to raise money for Movember. Its also probably futile for approximately half of the population. However, Movember is an extremely worthy cause. The charity aims to prevent early death in younger males by 25% by 2030 by raising money for testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.

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The lovely people at Heck Sausages contacted me to ask me to write a post about their Check campaign where proceeds from each pack of their Chicken Italia Chipolatas goes towards the charity. As well as tasting brilliant (and being low fat and gluten free to boot) the staff at Heck started to raise money as one of their staff members Jamie has recently undergone treatment for testicular cancer. Read the full story here. Heck have also renamed themselves Check for the entire month of November to raise awareness for self checking of men. They also aim to raise around £25000 for the charity so don’t forget that the more sausages you eat the more money that goes to charity (talk about win win).

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Frankly, men are dreadful at self checking and even worse at speaking to the GP. Depending on where you live between a third and a half of men would not know what to look out for when checking their testicles and a similar proportion of women wouldn’t know how to check their partners testicles. Even more scarily 85% of men would be embarrassed to speak to their GP if they did notice a problem.

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Information about checking yourself or somebody your partner can be found here. Its worth being mindful that early diagnosis and treatment increases survival rates of testicular cancer and also prevents loss of both testicles in males.

I actually have an MSc in Cancer Biology and Therapy and one of the facts that will always stick with me is that despite cancer being more diagnosed in women worldwide, the survival rate in men is so much poorer. Men often won’t see their doctor until its too late, which I suppose ties in with suicide rates also being higher in men. Movember is a charity that aims to raise awareness of such issues and on top of that helps fund research into male related cancers. More effective male cancer treatment increases the quality of life of men of your boyfriend’s age, or your brother’s age or one of your friends. On top of that attempting to reduce the stigma of men talking about their feelings and speaking up about mental health issues also improves lives and helps people who are truly suffering see a light at the end of the tunnel.

While I identify as a feminist and I can speak for days about women’s rights and political issues I am also extremely vocal about equality and men’s quality of life. We should all try to support Movember and encourage more men to check themselves and seek help when needed whether it be through raising money for the charity by cultivating a moustache, donating to the charity or even eating rather a lot of sausages for a worthy cause.

For more information about the work Movember is doing please browse their website. It is absolutely fascinating looking at all the causes they are contributing to.

For more information about Heck sausages including stockists please visit their website.

Love Food Boxes

I was recently offered the opportunity to review a Love Food subscription box. The idea is simple in that you get sent ingredients to bake some seriously delicious (and instagrammable) treats in the exact quantities needed to prepare each recipe. You will, of course need to provide your own chilled ingredients such as eggs and butter. However, I find it a beautiful idea for people looking to start baking or for those who enjoy cakes fresh from the oven, but who want to make it a treat to have and really enjoy once in a while rather than a staple in their diets.

My box contained ingredients for S’mores Brookies. A brownie/cookie hybrid sandwiched together with melted chocolate and marshmallows. A most excellent way to end a busy Monday (and something nice to take into work on a long Tuesday). I found the recipe really easy for my tired brain to follow and I thought it was nice that it was something new and a bit different that I had not tried before.

I have actually has this box for a few weeks as I have been waiting for the perfect opportunity and you know what? I love them – as well as being simple for bakers of experience levels, the food looks so decadent and tastes amazing (I might be on something of a chocolate high right now). I can imagine the boxes being something you could make with your friends on a cosy night in, or give to an older child with minimal supervision. They’re probably also the sort of activity that some would find enjoyable as part of some sort of home based date night.

So here are the practical bits of information: when you subscribe the money will be take out of your account on the 1st of each month and the box will be delivered on 21st. The subscription can be cancelled at any time and the code FIRSTBOX  can be used to get 50% off your first box.

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I was sent a Love Food subscription box to review the service but all opinions are my own.

Giant scone cake

I’m ready to admit it. Blogging can be a funny business. While some people do really well cooking up elaborate meals and writing about them, I always find the most success in terms of number of visitors based on recipes that are straightforward to make at home with ingredients with easy to substitute ingredients; rather than the much more elaborate cooking I originally did when writing this blog.

On that note, I can spend hours making and decorating a cake and, yes, quite a lot of people will show interest. Then on another occasion I can make a giant scone cake due to burning something else, which takes all of 45 minutes to make, bake and decorate and it gets the most interest of any cake recipe I have made. You really cannot predict blog views!

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This cake recipe as mentioned before is really quick to make. Nobody expects a pretty scone so it doesn’t need hours of elaborate decoration. This recipe is also eggless, pretty low on sugar and can be easily adapted into a vegan recipe if you switch the milk and butter for non dairy substitutes and use this gem instead of whipped cream. Pretty much a winner for several dietary requirements then.

To make a large scone cake you will need:

450g self raising flour

100g salted butter

85g caster sugar

Approx 300ml milk

50g sultanas

2-3 tablespoons raspberry jam

200ml double cream

1 tablespoon icing sugar

Heat your oven to 200°C. Line 2 cake tins with grease proof paper. In a large mixing bowl use your fingers to rub the butter into your flour. Add your sugar and sultanas. Pour in about 2/3 of your milk and then gradually add the rest of your milk until just before the point when the mixture goes too sticky and soggy. If this happens add a little flour to stiffen up.

Diving your scone mix between the two cake tine and spread the mix to the edges as scones do not really spread during baking. Bake for about 11 minutes until the scones go golden brown. Allow the scones to cool.

To decorate whip the icing sugar and cream until thick and spreadable. Spread jam on one half of the scone and spread cream on the other half. Sandwich together et voila. A giant scone!

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This is a great crowd pleaser, especially amongst my Yorkshire friends. My grandma served this cake with champagne (this cake was a moving present for her and my grandpa) but it also goes really well with tea of coffee – as scones are traditionally served with tea.

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Sausage and feta meatballs

I feel like at the moment a lot of recipes I post are quick ones for people who are busy or don’t want to spend ages in the kitchen. What can I say, I’m really busy at the moment (both in my day job but also getting some pretty great opportunities on this blog) and yet I still want to eat balanced meals with D.

Anyway, I sent D and I both to work with these meatballs and cous cous salads for lunch and they were perfect. I think its safe to say we were both full until tea time (its all about those slow release carbs.

Anyway, this is a perfect lunch or teatime idea as it takes about 5 minutes to cobble together the meatball mix and shape and about 15-20 minutes in the oven. Good for when you’re desperate for some sofa time!

For 12 meatballs you will need:

4 pork and oregano sausages or similar

2 sliced spring onions

1/4 egg (optional, if you you have it left from some other cooking)

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

80g crumbled feta

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Remove the sausages from the skin and add to a large bowl. Crumble over some feta and add the onion, egg, and seasonings. Use your hands to smush together the ingredients. Shape the meat filling into the meatballs about 3cm in diameter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sausages have browned.

If you’re cooking this to have in a salad allow to cool. If its to go into a sauce add it at this point. Serve with the sides of your choice. For us it was dukkah spiced cous cous. Just remember, fast food doesn’t always have to mean you compromise on flavour or nutritional value.

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