Thursday, 29 January 2015

Finding my stride...... {Week 2 Couch to 5K}

Week two of couch to 5k is complete! And when I think about it the fact that I have now done six runs in two weeks makes me feel pretty accomplished - I'm coming from nothing here guys! I found this week pushed me harder but getting into my groove was a lot easier. There's a repetitiveness to jogging that this week I started to fall into - where you don't even think about your breathing you just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other... I just can't wait for the day when I can do this for even longer periods of time! 

Bought myself some new running gear and H bought me a new pair of running trainers so I'm all ready for week three! Bring it on! 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

When Paella rice isn't an option......{Wild Rice Paella}

Because paella rice really isn't an option for me. Complex carbs only which is fine I like sweet potato and brown rice. I went for another run yesterday night which was the fourth day of exercise in a row (probably a record for me) and my body was in need of some serious carbs. Now I'm not saying this is the healthiest dish in town - the chorizo sees to that (and paella without chorizo makes me sad) BUT the use of brown and red wild rice, soya beans and extra veg makes it that bit better for you. I'm sorry I'm a bit scatty with my measurements I do tend to just throw things in a pan!

Wild Rice Paella

1 cup red and brown wild rice, uncooked
2 banana shallots, diced 
100g chorizo, sliced into £1 coin thickness
1/2 red chilli, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 TSP dried red chillies
5 mushrooms, cubed 
1 TSP paprika
pinch saffron
splash white wine or brandy
chicken stock, fresh is best or from a stock pot
couple of handfuls of  frozen soya beans 
handful frozen peas
10 raw prawns 
1 tomato, cubed

put the chorizo in a heavy based shallow pan, and cook for 5 minutes until the oils are released and they start to crisp up slightly. add in the chilli, garlic and shallots and stir until softened. add in the dried chilli, paprika, mushrooms, and saffron. stir for a few minutes then add in the rice and coat it in the pan oils. splash in some wine and cook it off and the add in a good amount of stock, i covered the rice and a good 2 1/2 inches more. leave on a moderate and keep an eye on it but don't stir. when the stock is almost all absorbed check the rice - if it's still hard add some more stock if not then add in the soya beans, peas, prawns and tomato and cover the pan. cook on low for another 5-10 minutes or so and then everything should be cooked nicely. serve.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

healthy Weekday Meal #4 ............{Halloumi with cous cous and kale}

A hit is how I describe this dish. Went down very well in our household and H appreciated the extra protein in the form of chorizo in his version. I didn't miss the chorizo and found this dish really nice and filling. Its  very quick and easy to make which makes it perfect for an evening meal after a long day at work and you could also substitute the couscous for quinona if you so wish, it works just as well.  

Halloumi with Cous Cous and Kale

block of halloumi cut into slices 
around 50g of chorizo, sliced  *OPTIONAL*
50g couscous, made according to instructions (i make mine with stock)
good few handfuls kale, as much as you like!
mustard vinaigrette - i make mine - few glugs of OO, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, 1 clove garlic chopped, 1 tbsp mustard (Dijon or wholegrain) a squeeze of lemon juice and some S&P all shaken up together. but use shop bought if you want 

steam your kale for just a few minutes until the leaves have gone slightly darker but it's not soggy. drain and let cool down slightly. take a pan, if you are cooking the chorizo add them to the pan and cook off for a 5 or so minutes then remove them from the pan. add in the halloumi and then cook that, turning occasionally - if you have used the chorizo then it will just cook in the oils released if not add a tiny bit of oil to the pan. toss the kale, cous cous and a bit of dressing together and place in pan. add the halloumi and chorizo to the top and serve. 

Linking up with Vicky at Honest Mum
Tasty Tuesdays on

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Healthy Weekday Meal #3...........{Chicken Puttanesca}

Many moons ago when I wasn't dieting I blogged a favourite pasta recipe Puttanesca Spaghetti. Now as I am avoiding processed foods and my diet is pretty low carb I wanted to find an alternative to this favourite sauce of mine. Step in courgette (zucchini) ribbons to replace the pasta and a chicken breast to bulk up the dish and add lots of protein. I loved it, the heady flavours kid you in to thinking you are eating a much richer dish and the courgette compliments the sauce really well. Its going on the list of my favourite easy and healthy weekday meals.

Chicken Puttanesca 

Inspiration for this recipe came from BBC Good Food (here) and Supergolden Bakes (here)

2 chicken breasts 
1 small onion, diced
50g anchovy fillets, drained and then chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped 
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
400g tinned tomatoes
1 large tomato, diced
2 tbsp pitted black olives
2 tsp small capers
olive oil
small handful of parsley, chopped

1 courgette
olive oil

brown the chicken in a pan with a little olive oil. remove and de-glaze the pan with a little water. add a splash more olive oil and then the onion, garlic and anchovies, cook until the onions are translucent. stir in the fresh tomato, tinned tomatoes and then fill the tin halfway with water and add that. sprinkle in a little sugar to help sweeten the tomatoes. bring the sauce to the boil and then turn down the pan to a simmer. add the olives and the capers and season well. place the chicken in the pan and cook covered for 20 mins and then uncovered for 10 mins so the sauce thickens up. sprinkle with  parsley. 
for the courgette, use a potato peeler to get long slices of ribbon the length of the whole courgette. I find one courgette for every 2 people works, add a tsp olive oil to a pan and a dash of water and cook the courgette - it only takes a few minutes.
serve the chicken and sauce over the courgette ribbons  

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

I am NOT a natural runner...........{week one couch to 5K}

What a great opening to a blog post! Source:here
One of my "owning my 2015" goals was to run a 5k and another was to loose weight. I am on a pretty strict diet which I actually seem to be sticking with and so far I've lost 8lbs. I've been going to yoga classes to help with toning and I've been swimming once a week. I have also been running....GASP. Anyone who knows me will know that this is a shocker because I am not a natural runner. Oh no I am not. All those ladies you see jogging along in cute outfits and sweatbands, barely breaking a sweat? Well I'm not that lady, I'm the one bright red and panting away after a couple of steps. I'm not sure I'll ever master the graceful running thing, mainly because,you know, I'm trying desperately hard to remember to breath! But lovely readers at least I'm running.  
This is not a sponsored post at all but I could not to it without my Change for Life couch to 5k app. I've long been a fan of the Change for Life scheme (God bless our NHS) and the way it promotes a healthy lifestyle that can be adapted by the whole family, and this app is just one of the great initiatives they have. I just love the encouragement the lovely lady gives you (it's nice to read her story too) and the way it gives you gentle nudges but doesn't patronise you. Plus I can listen to my music whilst I run as well. Tracking my progress is the only thing that keeps me going and this app suits me perfectly.
I have done my three runs this week and I am actually quite surprised at how enjoyable and not too tricky I found them. two of my runs I have done with my fitness buddies Danielle and Rhiannon at the park and yesterday I did my first run by myself. It was also my first run on the pavement (sidewalk) and I did feel the difference. I did find that I pushed myself a bit harder by myself (I ended up jogging an extra 5 minutes) and I quite liked being alone with my thoughts BUT running with friends is great motivation.
SO my first week was surprisingly enjoyable - wish me luck for week 2!
Any of you runners? Any tips you can give me? Especially for the aches the next day?
Today I'm linking up with the lovely Miriam at Farm girl

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Healthy Weekday Meal #2........{sweet potato crust quiche}


Boyfriend loves quiche but this girlfriend cannot deal with pastry at the moment. The compromise is this rather delicious quiche that tastes pretty awesome. Mine isn't perfect as whilst cooking some of the sweet potato seemed to float up a bit, but hey, it tastes better then a normal quiche in both of our opinion. We can class this one as a winner methinks.
Play around with the fillings; I chose the ones I did because I had things to use up in the cupboard

Quiche with a Sweet Potato Crust

1 sweet potato, very thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 courgette, diced
2 large mushrooms, diced
couple of handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
5 eggs, beaten
splash semi-skimmed milk
small amount of strong cheddar, grated

lightly grease a pie dish with olive oil, layer the bottom and side with the slices of sweet potato. bake in oven at a moderate heat for around 20 minutes. sauté the shallot, courgette and mushrooms in a pan with a little butter (or whatever cooking oil you want) and set aside. beat the eggs with the milk and then add in the veg along with the chopped spinach. pour over the sweet potato crust. bake in the oven for around 40mins until its cooked through. I served this with a tomato salad (tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and S&P)

Linking up with Vicky at Honest Mum
Tasty Tuesdays on

Monday, 19 January 2015

The best plan is no plan....... {Unplanned tapas}

"sometimes the best plan is no plan" 

H says this to me a lot. He hates plans he likes taking things as they come where as I'm probably the exact opposite. But then opposites attract. We went round to my friends Pete and Charlotte's yesterday and the plan was just to chill out and play a few board games (dry January strikes again) and Char was going to dye my hair. Instead it was her sister in laws birthday and her family were round as well and we ended up dancing in the kitchen with utensils as microphones (and yes, this was all not fuelled with alcohol although others present may have been a bit tipsy). 

Charlotte and I decided to feed people because that's what we like to do so after raiding the fridge and freezer a table of tapas was produced. There was paprika chicken with peppers and hallomi, chilli and garlic prawns, chorizo in red wine and an amazing salad with avocado, roasted tomato and parma ham. All made from scratch and   And what a table it was. I am proud of our table it fuelled even more dancing, laughter and lots of love. Food does that - enhances an already great evening.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Healthy Weekday Meal #1..............{Moroccan Turkey Meatballs with cous cous}

So to shift those pounds that I speak about in my new years resolutions post, I have started on the JuicePlus+ diet where basically you have meal replacement shakes for 2 meals a day with a "clean and lean" meal in the evening... gradually you come of the shakes and the idea is that change your eating habits as you are learning to adapt a more clean way of eating. So I am 2 weeks into this plan and I have already lost 7lbs and I am enjoying coming up with healthy and tasty recipes.

This recipe is great as it packs in loads of vegetables in to the sauce, it's really flavoursome and it turns what would be a rich dish into something much lighter. you could make this dish would pork or beef mince balls but for optimum healthiness I went for turkey. The cous cous is made how i like it which is to always make it with stock but again this is entirely to my tastes...

Moroccan Turkey Meatballs with Cous Cous

250g turkey mince, rolled into around 12 balls (or you can just buy a pack of ready made turkey meatballs)
1 onion, diced 
1/2 red onion, diced 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced 
1 tsp dried red chilli flakes 
1 carrot, diced
1/2 courgette, diced 
3 large mushrooms, diced
1 tbsp Ras el hanout
1/2 tsp cinnamon
sprinkle of cumin 
2 large tomatoes chopped 
400g chopped tomato (or you could us passatta)
1 dtsp agave syrup (if you don't have this use honey)
olive oil 

125g cous cous 
1/2 stock cube (optional)
1 tbsp sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 dsp sundried tomato oil (from the jar)

put a little olive oil in the pan and then brown of your meatballs - don't worry if they are a little pink in the middle you are going to cook them again a bit later. remove the meatballs and then put the onions in the pan - i tend to add a bit of water here to help soften them rather than more oil. once they have softened add in the garlic and chilli flakes and stir until the garlic becomes fragrant. to the pan add the carrot, courgette and mushrooms along with the remaining spices. after 10 minutes or so add in the tomatoes, 300ml water and the agave syrup. season well. blend the sauce until it becomes smooth(ish) bring the pan to the boil and then drop in the meatballs making sure they are almost submerged in the simmering sauce. turn the pan down low and cover with lid. cook for around 20 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered at the end. whilst the meatballs are cooking away make the cous cous however you prefer - i just cover the stock and cous cous with boiling water, put a plate over the bowl so it steams then after 5 minutes of so I fluff it up and add the oil and sun dried tomatoes. serve the meatballs over the cous cous.  

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Basking in Dry January....... {Chicken Basque}

One of my plans to own my 2015 is to loose some weight and to kick it off H and I have been partaking in Dry January. Its a great way to get cracking on healthy eating and lifestyle and lets face it a rest from the booze is never a bad thing. So Saturday night came around and as we weren't drinking and we were still quite tired from the Christmas and New Years holidays we decided to have a night in and I decided to cook us a nice but relatively well balanced meal. It also gave me a chance to try my new cookware - a present to myself , I couldn't resist as it was half price in Sainsburys. This recipe is one I have loved for years - Delia Smith to thank for that and I'm giving you my version of it here, it's rustic cooking at it's best. Enjoy!

Chicken Basque

(Original recipe by Delia Smith and can be found here)

6 small chicken fillets
1 large red pepper, sliced 
1 Spanish onion, thickly sliced 
4 tbsp olive oil
150g Chorizo, cut into slices thickness of £1 piece
100g sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped 
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika 
1 tbsp tomato puree 
125g brown basmatic rice
125g wild rice 
300ml chicken stock
200ml dry white wine 
1/2 orange cut into wedges 
50g pitted olives (I used black and green)

put 2tbsp of the olive oil into the pan and brown off the chicken. Remove from pan. Add the rest of the oil and the onions and peppers, cook for 5 minutes or so until they have softened and browned off slightly. Add in the chorizo, tomatoes and garlic and cook for couple of miutes, stirring constantly. stir in the rice and make sure the grains are coated in the oil. Add the tomato puree, stock and wine and seasn. bring to a simmer. place the chicken on the top of the rice with orange and olives dotteded in between (my photos show how it should look. Cover and put in oven at 180oC for and hour, until rice has cooked through. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

How to make Rye crisp breads more interesting....... {Smoked Mackerel Pate}

With H and I really hitting the healthy eating and the dry January we are always on the look out for healthy lunches and snacks.  Step up to the mark Ryvitas! We love them but they can be a bit dry and a bit bland sometimes so we like to find scrummy toppings (peanut butter with banana is a favourite). I had bought some smoked mackerel and decided to make a pate which worked perfectly on top of the crisp bread. It's very easy to make but tastes lush.

Smoked Mackerel Pate

300g smoked mackerel (I used the one with crush black peppercorns)
150g low fat cream cheese
3 spring onions
juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon

take the mackerel, cream cheese and onions and roughly blend. season and stir in lemon juice. taste and add more lemon juice or black pepper if needed. spread on crackers, crisp bread or toast. Yes, it's that easy!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Owning my 2015

DISCLAIMER.... The photo above has no relevance to this post. It's just a photo of me as I once read that every blog post has to have a photo and I'm trying to be a good blogger!

I'm not usually one for resolutions, but I want to make the most of my 2015 so here is my list of "Ways to own my 2015"

Loose 2 stone

Pass my driving test

Drink more water 

Go on a foreign holiday with H

Get a pay rise

Pay off my credit card

Blog more 

Try and be more tidy

Be more patient 

Run 5k race

There we have them - perhaps by writing them on here I'll be more accountable and actually stick to them!

We are also embarking on Dry January combined with clean and lean living so wish us luck!

Have you made resolutions? If so what are they?

Friday, 2 January 2015

2014..... you've been an "ok" one

Hello 2015.... didn't you just sneak up on us all. Christmas has been wonderful although I am slightly distressed that it is Friday and work begins again on Monday *sigh*. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. We ate a lot, indulged a lot, spent time with friends and family and actually got to relax. It was great.

2014 was a real mix of a year. I moved three times, eventually moving in with H. It's great but sharing your living space with the one you love is not the easiest - I'm a bit too messy and he never puts the lid on the milk. Still........ there's nowhere I'd rather be.

Friends seem to be more settled this year. Many have moved into new houses, moved to new towns, even new countries. They've had babies, announced pregnancies and asked me to be a godmother. There's been a couple of weddings, an engagement or two, a couple of funerals and a divorce. The divorce is a funny one for me as I still think that I'm too young to have friends getting divorced but that is life and sometimes you realise that two people who once loved each other very much, simply don't any more and the kindest thing they can do is call it quits and the kindest thing you can do as a friend is to just be there for both of them. Friendships change and develop or sometimes they have drifted away a bit. Before this would have really upset me but I get older I understand more that everyone has different priorities in life and some friendships last the distance and some don't. That doesn't mean you've fallen out or started hating them it's just that  as life changes and evolves so do your friendships.

We had a few holidays, just in the UK. A couple in Whitstable (of course), Norfolk and Yorkshire. Here's to some abroad in 2015!

My career changed this year and it has pushed me and challenged me in ways I have never experienced but oh how I miss the food industry. However my new role has led to me getting my own food pages in a magazine which is such an amazing experience. I work with some amazing people as well and have made some lovely friends. It's good. Not what I want to do forever but it is fine for now. 

I fell more in love with H this year. Our relationship grows as we are together longer and we are no longer in the first flush of love but I prefer this side more. Yup we may sometimes bicker but we know each other so much better, we understand each other more and know how to make one another laugh. I'm pleased to have him next to me as we go into 2015. I've never loved anyone more. 

We lost H's sister in 2014 which was devastating. Strange phrase that - "we lost her", when you don't loose them, they die, you can't find them again. She was ill for the shortest time, a brain tumour, and It rocked our family's world, shocked us to our core and the loss of a such a vibrant, fun, big hearted woman is something we feel every single day. It's not something I talked about on my blog as grief is a very private thing and it's not really my grief to claim; she leaves behind two sets of parents, never expecting to have to deal with the death of their child, a husband and two beautiful, talented children and three adoring brothers.  What I will say is that it was a privilege to have known her, even for such a short time, I'm glad she approved so vocally of me, I'm glad we had some amazing chats before she left and I mourn the sister I would have gained. 

So 2014 was an "ok" one. Highs and lows, as there will always be in life. I am so lucky ad so blessed and I try to remember this at all times, even when I'm feeling a bit down on life or when I'm a bit tired and fed up. I'm excited for 2015 - I think it's going to be a good one!