August Antics

I’m way too hot right now. Taking a respite from the blazing Cretan sunshine, I’m sat under the umbrella writing this post, also the only place I can see the screen. Is there such a thing as a laptop screen that you can still see in the sun? No matter how much I turn up the brightness I’m still staring into a black void, which isn’t so ideal for editing photos, and god knows what I’m actually typing here.

So yes, I’m spending my last week of August in Crete, near to the city of Rethymno. We have a beautiful villa here, surrounded by olive groves and pomegranate trees and the mountains in the distance. Did you know that Greece is approximately 80% mountain?? I didn’t!! It’s so peaceful here too, except for the sound of crickets, birds (not forgetting the bloody barking dogs, they’re not so peaceful but we can forget about them) and the swilling of the pool, well that’s about it.

The so-called British summer has been pretty poor this year. All those who don’t believe in global warming, well surely it’s proof enough when our summer’s have been getting wetter and cooler year on year. The boots and puffer coats never get put away and the sandals and bikinis are too shy to come out. I’m very grateful to be here and to end August on a good note in a beautiful setting. I’m sick of the rain, so when I get back home to England can you please have gone away? Thanks.

With next coming September (my birthday month, annnnddddd it’s a big’un!) I’m very much looking forward to it, celebrating with a bang. Also what’s not to love about Autumn, the last of the seasonal fruit and vegetables, foraging for blackberries, low and golden sunshine beams and walks through the falling leaves. But that’s next month it’s a while to go yet, so back to now! Here’s what I’ve been loving this August, just a couple of things, mainly with a sunny theme of course!

#1 Daily morning swim

Photo 27-08-2017, 15 37 14.jpg

There’s no way that I could go on holiday without having a pool nearby, just a few steps away is ideal. I’m not a huge fan of the beach, sand gets everywhere in every single crack and crevice, you can’t eat or you’ll end up chewing on the stuff and swimming in the sea gives me the heebie jeebies. The pool is a must. On holiday I like to have a little routine of waking up putting my swimsuit on and swim a few lengths. It’s just me and the pool, some time for myself to reflect on things in my mind and get my body moving before a hard days’ work of lying down, reading books, doing crosswords and eating. The pool isn’t so big where I am right now, maybe only four or five strokes per length, but hey that only means more lengths. I’m currently on eighty, let’s see by the end of the week if I’ll make it to one hundred. I highly doubt that! NOTE: One day I did manage one hundred, pretty chuffed with myself I must admit, also pretty ravenous the rest of the day. Can’t complain about that just means more cheese for me!

 

#2  This dress from & Other Stories

Photo 24-08-2017, 19 43 33

The love affair all began way way back on a shopping day with my mum to Manchester, let’s say around May. I spotted this dress in & Other Stories, the skirt with the same print too, and just fell in love. I knew I had to own it. Unnnntttil spying the price tag of a lofty £79, well that idea was swiftly put aside. A week or so later I did a shoot on Formby Beach (which is absolutely beautiful on a sunny day by the way) and what was to be one of the looks? Of course that dress. It’s was as if it was fate. So again on another shopping trip in the summer months, I spied this beauty. ON THE SALE RAIL. I felt like all my stars had aligned and karma was on my side (something which doesn’t happen very often). It was meant to be after all! So finally last night I had the chance to wear said dress for a meal by the sea. It was a little breezier that anticipated and the waves were definitely crashing on the rocks, and the waistband perhaps was a little too tight so I had to undo the zip (too much feta maybe?). But it got its first outing and that’s all that matters!

 

#3 Greek Tea – particularly this brand Krocus Kozanis

Krocus-Kozanis-Organic-Saffron-Tea-Herbal-Tea-with-Sage-Lemon

There’s a theme this month if you haven’t already noticed, I am pretty in love with Greece. They like tea, as do I, meaning we get along well together. They do something called mountain tea which is made from the dried leaves, stems and flowers of the sideritis plant. But many other herbal teas are popular including the likes of sage and oregano all with supposed individual health benefits but a delicious flavour too. I’ve found this brand Krocus Kozanis, who sell a small range of organic greek teas, it is available in the uk but not the easiest to get hold of. The best of the lot are the herbal tea with sage, lemon verbena and saffron and the herbal tea with rosemary, thyme and saffron. I will be stocking up whilst we’re here and packing my suitcase with teabags. If we’re overweight on the baggage allowance – I’ll sure know why!

 

#4 Pistachio and dark chocolate cookies with sea salt from Joy The Baker

7785914112_fd9b83c1e6_z.jpg

This is one of my go-to’s. Whenever my family is pining for something sweet or I need a present to take to someones’ house, I know it’s a pleaser. A mixture of finely chopped almost ground pistachios with chunkier ones for some bite, dark chocolate chips (the darker the better to contrast with the sweetness) and a good sprinkling of sea salt on each one which is totally obligatory. They’re a little more adult than your regular chocolate chip, and just that little bit better. Joy the Baker has some brilliant finds on her blog, I’m a repeat visitor for her cookie recipes and also her chats about cats, I’m always into that. Cats are life. As are cookies.

 

#5 Organic cold-pressed rose hip seed oil from The Ordinary

7554633-1-rosehipseedoil

Rosehip oil is something I’ve intergrated into my beauty routine for some time now. A few drops on slightly damp skin (nothing which a good spritz of rosewater can’t solve) massaged in then left to absorb before applying my moisturiser. It’s highly hydrating, full of Vitamin A and Fatty acids which are beneficial for our skin, is lighter than many other oils such as coconut oil so won’t clog your pores and it gives you a natural glow due to its orange colour (I’m not talking oopma loompa, but just eough of a tint). I’ve been faithful to this rosehip oil from Pai, it has a lovely scent but also a bit costy too. A friend suggested the company The Ordinary to me, a new beauty brand which aims to bring trustworthy products to the market, dispose of false advertsing and to sell everything at a reasonable price. Well at £9 a pop I can’t really argue with that.

 

#6 Swiss cheese plant or Monstera (or as I like to call it Grilled Cheese Plant) from Ikeamonstera-potted-plant-swiss-cheese-plant__0507893_pe636086_s4

Oh Ikea, you walk in with intentions of tracking down the one wardrobe, to walk the wrong way down the aisles, get hungry halfway round so stop for meatbealls and a cinnamon bun, buy way more unnecessary things than you intended to and then struggle with the trolley on the way to the car as the flat pack is way heavier than you anticipated and the trolley has a Dickie wheel. We’ve all been there! HOWEVER they do sell everything at a reasonable price and you can get some pretty snazzy finds. Even though I have just bought this mirror for my room (which I love to pieces may I add) but every other man and his goat has the same one, which is rather annoying. They also have a really good plant section. I bought two plants from there, a Calathea (obviously purchased entirely on the basis of the name) and the Montera (or swiss cheese). Perhaps plants have become that indie ‘staple’ to be seen in every coffee shop and young persons apartment. It’s true I also have a pinterest board full of plant inspiration for my bedroom, I’m talking planters, macramé and succulents. Buutttttt it’s also true that plants are really beneficial to our health when kept inside. They increase the quality of the air by removing pollutents, keep the air more humid and less dry and supposedly encourage an increase in mood and lower stress levels. Well I’ll be having some of that please. Also they just look really nice. The swiss cheese plant, has holes in its leaves, similar to an edam or gouda (d’ya get it now?), and a hell of a lot easier upkeep than a dog or cat. I’m just praying that after a 1 week holiday it hasn’t given up on me!

 

August it’s been a fun ride but here we are on the other side. I’ll be chatting here this time next month when I’m another year older. 21. Pretty excited I must admit, but do I feel like I can officially call myself an adult and I have my life in check. Hell NO. Am I looking forward to eating my weight in birthday cake, drinking way too much prosecco and seeing all my family and friends (ooh not forgetting the new outfit)? Why OF COURSE!!

Ta ta

X

Want some crumble? I’ve got you covered.

photo-19-10-2016-16-35-50

I’ve still got that autumnal vibe. Walks around my local park, romping through the crunchy leaves leaving a trail of my wanderings behind me. Walking to the green grocers and picking up squashes, beetroots, multicoloured carrots all ready to roast up for a heart warming dinner or snack.

These rich and toasty flavours are spreading into almost everything I am craving and making recently. A morning doesn’t go by without a generous sprinkling of cinnamon in my porridge or on my toast (no change from the rest of the year there then). I’m feeling a need for warming cooked food instead of my regular salad for lunch. Baked sweet potatoes topped generously with dahl or veggie chilli, big bowls of soup and a huge hunk of sourdough bread and butter. Bread, potatoes, rice, CARBS, more bread, I think it’s a sign of the foreboding winter. My body stock piling the energy to keep my fingers and toes warm for the next few months, or more likely that a new bakery has opened up where I live, and a week doesn’t go by without a loaf or two of sourdough for us to devour (add in a couple of pastries too).

I’m not complaining. Bread and butter has always been one of my favourite things to eat, and ultimate comfort food. Back in the days of me only eating bread and butter, ham, chips and sweet corn, and by bread I’m talking white thick sliced Hovis and the ‘butter’ was some plastic margarine crap, I think freshly baked sourdough and organic salted butter isn’t going to do any harm.

Another winter comfort always has to be crumble. Any fruit is welcome here. As long as it’s tart and juicy in contrast to the crispy, but gooey underneath and slightly sweet crumble topping. And then drown that in custard. DONE. But only one spoon please, I’m not sharing with anyone!

On a lunch out for my mums birthday the other weekend, we went to a favourite of ours in Manchester. We’ve been before and dreamed of munching on their spicy Korean fried chicken once more. However I’d also heard about their apple crumble. Proper stuff, no deconstructed or single serving nonsense here. I’m talking bring the whole dish to the table, serve out a hearty portion and drown it with creamy custard. No creme anglaise we’re English! So obviously after enough to drink, the crumble was obligatory for some alcohol absorption (so we told ourselves).

Since that weekend, crumble has been on my mind.

But I wanted a snack that wasn’t overly sweet and would keep in the fridge, ready to be packed into a Tupperware for those hungry travels. Flicking though the cookbook from My New Roots, I spied some walnut and fig crumble bars. That fits the brief quite nicely.

photo-19-10-2016-16-36-08

They’re ever so simple to whip up, a mixture of oats, walnuts, chia and apple sauce for the crust, and blended dried figs for the filling. No added sugars, maple syrup, honey or anything. All real ingredients from Mother Nature herself. And yes they are even acceptable for breakfast.

Now figs are not the most popular of the fruit world, but a real treat for all the foodies amongst us. Come September, Instagram fills up with pictures of juicy figs topping everything from porridge to toast and gracing savoury dishes, cheese boards and desserts. (NOTE a pud I had recently, white chocolate pannacotta with figs honey and walnut, unctuously creamy and sinfully good). For the rest of the year we have to turn to our dried friends for that figgy fix, and if you’ve ever tried dipping one in peanut butter or tahini, you will be hooked.

They are wonderful little creatures, providing you with calcium, which in this day and age is a very important mineral due to many people cutting dairy out of their diets. Alongside iron, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A, E and K, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Also as some of you will well know if you have eaten a few too many figs or prunes, they are high in fibre, and you probably will not want to eat a high amount again due to the consequences. The government recently have upped our required fibre intake here in the UK to 30g, which doesn’t sound much but I’m sure many of us aren’t reaching that goal daily. Fibre is so important boasting many health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and keeping weight under control due to it keeping you fuller for longer. But it’s also vital for your digestive health, acting as the food for your gut bacteria which we all need to learn to love and look after, and bulking up stools to prevent the C WORD, yep constipation.

TMI!!!

But it’s so important, I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m getting straight to the point!

3 dried figs give you 2.4 g of fibre, so chop them up and mix into porridge with some ground flaxseeds and peanut butter, and you’re well on your way to that 30g a day.

 

Or have one of these bars with your afternoon cup of tea, or as a dessert with some yogurt and berries. Lightly sweet, spicy, crunchy and wholesome. It’s not a bowl of apple crumble and custard but that’s not for everyday, save that for special occasions. These are to enjoy for those times in between, satisfying your sweet tooth but with the knowledge that they are doing you and your gut some good. And we all need to give our guts a bit more loving!!!

photo-19-10-2016-16-35-07


Fig and walnut crumble bars

Recipe adapted from the My New Roots cookbook

A dairy free recipe, no added sugar and can be gluten free if you use gluten free oats. A note on the applesauce, I buy applesauce from the baby food section because it contains no added nasties. Make sure there’s just apples on the ingredients list and no sugar. I used both this and this brand.

Ingredients

Base and crumble topping

  • 1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 280g walnuts
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 60g applesauce
  • 2 tbsp nut milk (can use maple syrup as stated in the original recipe but didn’t want them that sweet)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Figgy filling

  • 300g dried figs
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 125g applesauce
  • Grated zest 1 small or 1/2 large lemon or orange
  • Pinch salt

Method

  1. For the crust: whisk the chia seeds with 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl. Leave for around 15 minutes until it has formed a gel.
  2. Set your oven to 180C/160C fan. Put 140g of the walnuts on a baking tray and put in the oven, leave until lightly golden and they smell toasty. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. In a food processor, blend 100g of the oats until you have a flour, add in the toasted walnuts and pulse until they are all chopped up and you have a sandy mealy texture.
  4. Add the chia gel, applesauce, nut milk (or maple syrup if you prefer), coconut oil and vanilla extract. Blend again until a moist dough is formed.
  5. In a bowl, mix the remaining 100g of oats with a pinch of salt and the baking powder. Tip the sticky dough mixture in the bowl and mix well either using a big spoon, or your hands, which is much easier.
  6. Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper, then put about a third of the dough mixture in. Press with the back of a spoon, or damp hands, fairly firmly to make an even base layer.
  7. To make the filling: In the food processor, there’s no need to wash it, snip the stalks off the figs and blend together with the cinnamon, ginger, applesauce, orange/lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Blend till either chunky or smooth depending on your preference, then spread the filling in an even layer over the base.
  8. Drop the remaining oat mixture in clumps so it resembles a crumble topping. Chop the remaining 140g of walnuts so they are still chunky and sprinkle over the topping. Press lightly so they stick.
  9. Place the tin in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is lightly golden. Leave to cool before cutting into 16 pieces. Keep in a Tupperware or tin in the fridge for around 5 days, or pop in the freezer for those times when the sweet tooth needs to be satiated.

I know in this changing of the seasons, our bodies are adjusting. You may be feeling more tired than usual, I definitely am! So whenever there’s a chance take the rest and treat yourself. We all deserve a bit of me time and self love.

X

The #PSL but not as you know it

The past week here in the UK there has been notable chill in the air. It seems to have sprung on us rather suddenly. Yes it’s October, and yes it is Autumn, but nevertheless I’m sure we have all been relishing in the glorious sunshine that’s turned up a couple of months late.

The sunglasses are still in use, but now I’m fishing out my winter coats, thicker tights, roll neck jumpers and very soon knee high boots (mini squeal!) to beat the frosty breezes but still enjoying the outside air without the wish to be snuggled up in a duvet with a hot water bottle.

Living in Britain we are supposed to have four proper seasons but due to global warming we’re shifting towards the two season year. Spring for sure, you’ll see the lambs, the daffodils, waking up to sunlight in the early mornings pulls us out of hibernation. Autumn too, leaves browning on the trees and gathering in piles of hedgehog caves, the low sunlight that blinds your vision, English apples crisp and sprightly. Both these times are truly magical.

Summer and winter are on a different level. Never warm enough in July and August, no picnics in the parks or bbqs (or if you’re lucky wrapped up in blankets), your umbrella is constantly sodden by the torrential downpour and bohemian summer dresses and sandals stay packed in the cases until next year. Winter isn’t much different, cold dreary mornings that turn into dark nights, never cold enough for snow only that grey sludge that lasts an eternity, everyone suffering from SAD in desperate need for some vitamin D.

Autumn is by far my favourite, maybe due to it also being the season for my birthday (yay!), I’m sure many others also cherish these couple of months. The time to make the most of British berries, plums, pears, courgettes growing in abundance, the last of the tomatoes, game season, early carrots and the start of the root vegetables, all meaning warmth and comfort will soon be filling our mealtimes.

For many the arrival of Autumn also means it’s time for Starbucks to take over with the #psl. What on earth is that? Come on, surely you know it’s the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The drink that has landed on our soil after many years being a favourite of the Americans. They will find the excuse to put pumpkin in EVERYTHING. And then if it doesn’t contain actual pumpkin there will at least be pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice.

Image result for starbucks pumpkin spice latte

Being a Brit, pumpkin only means one thing, Halloween. Pumpkin pie isn’t something we’re eager to bake and serve slices of with a mound of cream, and I don’t see people stockpiling pumpkin flavoured treats at the supermarket. I’m talking pumpkin Oreos, pumpkin spice cream cheese, pumpkin spice almonds, pumpkin spice kale chips, pumpkin pie flavour vodka, pumpkin pie flavour crisps, the list is endless I could’ve gone on on and but I think we’ve had enough of that.

Image result for pumpkin oreos

We get it the Americans love pumpkin, so in homage to them and in my attempt to create something as warm and cosy as the #PSL whilst still giving you something nourishing and not laden with sugar, I’ve come up with this recipe.

photo-07-10-2016-08-45-53

Somebody else say porridge? Yes another porridge recipe, but if you’re anything like me that’s all I crave this time of year.

photo-07-10-2016-08-46-29

For the pumpkin element obviously using pumpkin would be ideal, but if you’ve ever attempted to cook the ones you can find in the supermarket you’ll well know that they’re grown more to be spooky than savoured. Instead I reached out for the humble butternut squash, or even sweet potato would work here. We’re looking for that earthy sweetness, and brilliant orange tone to bring this porridge to life. Spices are obligatory, then finely chopped medjool dates are stirred through for their caramelly sweetness meaning no added sugar is required. And of course what would porridge be without a swirl of nut butter, sunflower seed butter was what I opted for but go ahead with anything else, pecan butter would be INSANE, and of course peanut butter will always have a place in my heart.

 

Pumpkin Pie Porridge

Ingredients

Serves 1

  • 40g / 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 125 ml / 1/2 cup water
  • 125ml / 1/2 cup plant based milk (I like oat or hemp)
  • 1/4 cup butternut squash, mashed**
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Pinch of ginger
  • Small Grating of nutmeg
  • Pinch salt
  • 1-2 squishy medjool dates (I find them very sweet and one is enough but alter to suit your taste)
  • 1 tbsp nut butter

 

Method

** The squash needs to be prepared in advance, can be cooked and kept in the fridge for around 5 days, use leftovers in a soup, as a mash for dinner, stirred into hummus, as a spread on toast or crackers, or just for this porridge every morning.

Wash the whole squash and wrap in foil. Place in an oven set at 180C for at least an hour until tender. Leave to cool.

When required, cut in half length ways and remove the seeds in the rounder section, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving the skin behind.

  1. The night before if you wish mix the oats, chia seeds, water and milk in a bowl and leave to soak until the next day
  2. In the morning if the oats have been soaked pour into a saucepan, if you haven’t soaked the put the oats, chia, water and milk straight into a pan. Then add the salt, squash purée, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and nutmeg and mix it all together.
  3. Place over a medium high heat until it starts to bubble, then turn down the heat to a low simmer and leave to cook for 5-10 minutes until thickened to your liking. Keep checking and stirring to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom and add more milk if you prefer it looser.
  4. Tip into a bowl, swirl through your nut butter of choice and add the chopped medjool dates.
  5. Sprinkle with more cinnamon if you like, seeds, bee pollen and whatever else you fancy. If you want to go all out on that pumpkin pie vibe, add a dollop of yogurt, cows, goat or coconut, take your pick for some extra creaminess.

Enjoy in your dressing gown and slippers, a mug of green tea in one hand, the newspaper spread on the table and the porridge warming your belly.

Sending warmth and rosy cheeks your way

X