Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Light Alfredo Pasta with Spinach and Peas

   This week. Crazy. And for all the best reasons. Just today I spent my whole afternoon in the kitchen making our wedding cake - crossing my fingers at every step because I can be extremely hit-and-miss when it comes to baking - and when dinner time rolled around ohhh I couldn't be bothered. I did, though, because I had to, but I wanted something easy. Seeg's parents landed in the country yesterday and came to see us for a few hours, and we got on to pasta and how it's so easy, that you can't get it wrong, and that after all the travelling, you really don't want to have to slave over the stove for a filling meal.
   So I turned to pasta this evening, but as I had no bacon, no soft cheese and no spare eggs, I couldn't rightly fall back on ever-reliable carbonara. But I did have coconut milk and spinach, and some turkey mince in the freezer. And as it turns out, that's all I really needed for a light alfredo pasta.

   This recipe, particularly the alfredo sauce, is much lighter than your typical recipe because it's lower in fat and calories. That's not to say, however, that it is fat-free. Nor is it saturated fat-free. But don't run off just yet! This is where we get scientific. A good deal of the saturated fat in this recipe comes from the coconut milk, but these particular saturated fats aren't 'evil' - they're dominantly in the form of the medium-chain fatty acid lauric acid, which is converted into energy much quicker than other saturated fats and is, as a result, far less likely to be stored as body fat. Lauric acid is also highly beneficial, converted in the body into monolaurin, a compound which is antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral.
   Despite the inclusion of coconut milk in this recipe, it does not taste like coconut. Not in the slightest. Seeg hates coconut and, to be honest, so do I, so believe me when I say we were both looking for the coconutty taste and neither of us found it.

Serves 4
500g lean turkey mince (or substitute for preferred alternative)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g spinach
200g uncooked wholewheat pasta
400ml light coconut milk
100g shredded light cheddar cheese
Italian herbs
150g garden peas

1. Heat the pasta according to the package instructions, but use your judgement. Heat for an additional 5-10 minutes if desired. Wholegrain pasta and rice both seem to take longer to cook and soften, no doubt due to the higher levels of fibre. If in doubt, make the pasta with an extra 10-20 minutes to spare; leave in the pan, covered, and turn off the heat if it cooks sooner than you're ready for it.

2. Fry the turkey mince or chosen substitute and crushed garlic for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently and breaking clumps apart.

3. Shake the coconut milk before opening to recombine it all, then pour over the turkey. Stir in the herbs, peas and shredded cheese and leave to heat for another 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, steam the spinach for 3 minutes.

5. Combine the pasta with the coconut turkey.

6. Spoon the spinach onto the plates, then top with the pasta mixture and serve.

• I used 7% fat turkey thigh mince
• I used Blue Dragon light coconut milk
• I used Tesco's own lighter cheddar cheese
• I cooked my pasta by bringing it to the boil, as instructed, and then lowering to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, as the packet said. I then heated it for an additional 5-10 to soften it further.

per serving
550 cals, 20g fat (11g sat), 43g carbs, 7g fibre, 40.5g protein

Friday, 11 May 2018

Friday Favourites

Ill again!
I had a couple of days of reprieve where I was just fine - even increased the weights in my workout. But then, DOOSH. I kid you not, 15 sneezes in 3 minutes. I thought it was hayfever at first, the worst it had ever been, but given the weakness, sore throat, chesty cough and such that came the following day (and the awful night's sleep), I figure not so much. I'm really, really hoping it's better by tomorrow night. As it is for most people, it gets worse as it gets later - tired, worn out and your body has a harder time fighting it off. Thing is, tomorrow night Seeg & I are being taken out for the evening prior to the wedding - no hen or stag do's, just a small gathering of friends at a board game café in Bristol. I've never been; I am excited. But our table is booked for right around the time that I've started to slump. So I'm hoping that I'll be able to get over it quickly enough that I'll be able to handle the smells and potential heat/dry air inside. I don't know what it's like, and these aren't details you'll notice unless you're actually ill, you know?
So, despite the fact that we're not going until tomorrow, Chance & Counters has made it onto this week's Friday Favourites. I've also been craving sweets again because I've been ill, but I've been remarkably good. Instead the only thing I've found myself truly craving is popcorn. Specifically Proper Corn's sweet coconut & vanilla. I've had 3 bags this week.
And yesterday I took some time out to play Sea of Thieves with Seeg, Sam and Duco, which was my first real experience with the game - I tried it on my own for all of 35 minutes, sailed out, found my first chest, headed back to port to sell it and was immediately shot in the face and robbed by another player. Not impressed. But this time I was part of a 4-man crew on a galleon rather than soloing on a sloop and it went a lot better. We wound up in a skirmish and won, too. I patched many, many cannon holes. It was great fun!

Now, though, I have other things to focus on. The final few steps on some custom orders and then some wedding arrangements. I am so excited.

Chance and Counters   ♥   Propercorn Sweet Coconut & Vanilla 
Fabletics' Winn powerhold capri in Tidal Wave   ♥   Sea of Thieves

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Matcha Banana Porridge

   "It's an acquired taste." "You have to learn to like it." I can't get behind that when it's alcohol we're talking about. Why would I want to 'learn to like' something that tastes awful, feels awful and leaves me feeling awful. I can't even get behind it with coffee. To my mind, if it's not actually good for you, as in, if the benefits don't massively outweigh the taste, what's the point? To this day I still don't drink because I just hate the taste & feel of alcohol.
   Of course, when it comes to healthier things, I do learn to like it. Brussels sprouts, for example. I eat them weekly, and now I love them. Matcha is another. I hated it when I first tried it 3 years ago, but with all the hype about aiding weight loss, I stuck with it. I'm pretty sure these claims are bogus but I developed a taste for it, there are benefits to be had from drinking the whole leaf, and, in truth, I really do love it. I had my first Starbucks in Schipol airport just this month - it was a matcha latte, at 5:30am.
   Bananas are another. I hate them. The smell, the texture, the taste, the peeling - I would avoid them like the plague. Then I had a banana Trek protein flapjack and liked it. Then a Graze banana protein bite. Then a slice of banana chocolate cake in the local café. Then I put a banana in a smoothie, and then into pancakes. I basically realised that I like the taste after all, I just hated the rest of it. But it's also one of the best fruits you can have after a tough workout, so when I started amping up my workouts a couple of months ago and I figured out how to delay overripe bananas, I decided to toughen up mentally, too, and eat bananas.
   These kinds of things might not be an acquired taste for everyone, but they are for me, and so it was only after I put together this sweet and simple porridge recipe that I realised it might not be for everyone. Once upon a time, it really wouldn't have been for me.

   This banana matcha porridge is a great start to your day. High in vitamins and minerals, protein and fibre, antioxidents and the catechin ECGC, and about half the caffine of your morning coffee, it's  perfect for a speedy morning - especially if you mix it all together the night before, let it sit in the fridge and heat it up in the microwave the next morning. Easy. It's a terribly lazy and nutritious breakfast - and it counts as 1 of your 5 a day!

Serves 1
30g oats
20g whey protein
2g matcha tea powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
1 ripe/overripe banana

1. Peel and mash 2/3 of the banana, reserving 1/3 to slice for the top if desired.

Overnight Oats
2. Combine oats, whey, matcha and cinnamon in a bowl (or shaker bottle). Add milk and water and stir (or shake then transfer to a bowl - I find this easiest to avoid whey from clumping).

3. Mix in the mashed banana and set in the fridge overnight.

4. Microwave for 2x 1 minute, then 30 second bursts the next morning until satisfied with the texture. Top with sliced banana and serve.

Oats on the Hob
2. Boil 100ml water

3. Combine oats, whey, matcha and cinnamon in a pan. Add the milk slowly, stirring all the while.

4. Add the mashed banana and mix.

5. Add the boiled water, mixing again.

6. Heat over medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes until thick, then transfer to a bowl.

7. Top with sliced banana and serve.

• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Purechimp matcha
• I used 1 small banana at around 100g

317 calories, 2.5g fat (0.5g sat), 46.5g carbs (17g natural sugars), 5.5g fibre, 26.5g protein; 1 of 5 a day

Friday, 4 May 2018

Friday Favourites

Ohhh this week hasn't been good.
Seeg and I managed to catch something on the weekend - we guess it came from our super-sneezy 3-year old nephew - so we've both been wallowing. For the first two days we had the same symptoms and the same severity, but afterwards it diverged. But we've both been pretty miserable. If I'm honest, it's been kind of nice. We've been moping together, watching TV together, and I've watched him finish off God of War (absolutely worthy of the immense praise it's been receiving). We've already broken into the Cote d'Or bonbonblocs we brought back from The Netherlands two weeks ago, and I spent all of yesterday in my pyjamas. Fortunately they're pretty and comfy as all hell, and that Victoria's Secret label inside makes me feel distinctly more pretty than I would in other jim jams.
Also, my dad got me a gift. It seems a little odd, especially when you consider how excited I got, but once you read my next book (due out this summer!) you'll see why the arenaria balearica has a special place in my heart. Also, look how comfy it looks to sit in! A crucial detail.

Victoria's Secret pyjamas   ♥   Cote d'Or praline bar
arenaria balearica   ♥   God of War

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Wolf + Scott - Organic Pancake Mix Review

   Breakfast. If, by chance, you didn't happen to notice, breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. It's also the most important, and it's easy to see why. You've not eaten for probably about 10 hours, so your body is in need of fuelling; it provides the nutrients you need for your body to make the transition from night time maintenance to day time work. It sets you up for the day, both physically and psychologically. I know that when I have a crappy breakfast, be it burned or rushed, I'm not in as good a mood as I could be and that impacts my work - be it writing, working out, or just my general approachability. So I always make a point of ensuring a good breakfast.
   Seeg has suggested that another reason I love breakfast so much is because I treat it like a dessert. I always have fruity breakfasts, never savoury - not because I'm against it, just simply because it's what I want. Everything else I eat that day will be savoury, and dessert itself is a rarety.
   Most days I don't have the time to make something very exciting, but I have found overnight oats to be a winner (I love porridge) because I can get up in the morning a little easier knowing my breakfast is all ready and waiting for me as I stumble down the stairs. But when I do have the time, I like to reach for something different.

   Pancakes are apparently the only socially acceptable form of cake that you can have for breakfast. For some reason it matters if the mixture is cooked in a pan or in the oven. Go figure. But while it is a breakfast staple, it's easy for pancakes to become unhealthy. Overload them with sugar or syrups and, while delicious, it's not as healthy as it could be. I don't know about you, but if I have refined sugar in the morning, I'm much more likely to eat it again over the course of the day.
   So, I don't typically add any sugar, syrup or sweetener to my pancakes, though I may very occasionally add a little bit of chopped dark chocolate or high-cocoa white. Otherwise, I prefer to rely on fruit or yogurt for sweetness, but this also means that my chosen pancake recipes or mixes are suitable for savoury use too, should I wish to break away from the norm (I don't).

   Wolf + Scott is a new brand of pancake mix rising over the horizon - organic, non-GMO, vegan, high in protein, fibre and omega-3 fats. Win, win, win win win. For the moment, they have only two mixes - 'Dark Wolf' cacao and 'Howlin' Good' super seeds. Both are made of a mix of organic wholewheat flour, buckwheat and flaxseed, neither are sweetened and both are free of any refined ingredients. They're perfectly adaptable and, frankly, delicious on their own. But when I was let at them they did become a little bit more special.

   I usually add raw cacao powder to a plain pancake mix, but I found that Wolf & Scott's Dark Wolf pancake mix exceeded my usual recipe without any interference on my part, which is what we always like to see - especially when they're guilt-free. I did add some chopped dark chocolate and cacao nibs on top, however, which did add a little sweetness and another level to both the chocolate and the texture. In short, yum.

   The Howlin' Good seed mix was very fine - I had expected to see more obvious evidence of the seeds - and resulted in pancakes which were just as light as Dark Wolf. I added some honey greek yogurt, warmed blueberries and seed mix on top of this one - I was feeling cheeky that morning - and they came out just as deliciously. I have since made another batch with some banana slices and the subtle nutty taste came through wonderfully.

   Delightfully fluffy, though I have taken to adding a scoop of protein powder to the mixture and that, as it often can, does result in a denser pancake. But I quite enjoy them that way, which is why I persist in doing so. Each 250g pouch can make 10-12 pancakes, and each 25g serving is just 80 calories. It does, of course, depend on how big you make them - I opt for small ones, about 4-5 inches, and even then only a stack of 4. I get there using either 50g of mixture, or 25g of mix with 20g additional whey protein powder, and 70ml skimmed milk. Both result in a small 4-5 piece batch at 180-200 calories, leaving the perfect amount of room for fruit, yogurt, seeds, nuts and chocolate, should I feel so inclined.

   Buy directly from Wolf + Scott - and don't forget to use my reader-exclusive discount! Add the code ABE25 to your order for 25% off of all Wolf + Scott pancake mixes!