Monday, 16 July 2018

Stranglethorn Porridge - Warcraft, Battle for Azeroth

   Thick, tangled and muggy, riddled with coiled snakes, prowling raptors and quiet, watchful gorillas, studded with carven stones and smothered with lianas. And through it all, a sense of being hunted - by more than mere beast. Stranglethorn Vale, the home of the Darkspear trolls before they were driven out by the larger tribes and laid claim to the Echo Isles, is a wild and tropical place, split between sunlight and the shade of enormous trees, but bountiful, too.
   Trolls are one of my favourite races - my hunter, Daeaye, and rogue, Tizali, are both trolls, and with the coming expansion, I'm very keen to make a Zandalari. Shaman or Druid, I haven't decided. I wish there was a voodoo class. And trolls' association with dinosaurs is an additional win. You know me. I love my dinos

   This porridge is inspired by their tropical jungle homeland, and it was great fun to do. In place of water, I used coconut water, and the porridge is sweet with dragonfruit, green with kiwi and chunky with star fruit, and topped with more dragonfruit and star fruit. It's a wonderfully refreshing bowl, and the ingredients, bar the dragonfruit, aren't too hard to source. Evenso, I bought most of it online. See my notes below for how to prep and store dragon fruit, as well as where I sourced it (UK).


See also: Tirisfal Glades  ♥  Teldrassil  ♥  Muglore  ♥  Khaz Modan

#BreakfastOfChampions

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g rolled oats (or preferred)
60ml skimmed milk
100ml coconut water (or plain, if preferred)
1 star fruit (carambola)
70g dragon fruit (pitaya)
1 kiwi
Optional 20g whey protein


Method
1. Peel and chop the kiwi, then blend until more or less liquified. You're using the whole thing, not just the juice, so it doesn't need to be smooth. Remove and set aside.

2. Slice the star fruit and set three thin slices aside for garnish. Chop the rest into chunks and blend as you did the kiwi. Remove and set aside.

3. Slice your dragon fruit and scoop out the flesh like you would an avocado. A melon baller gives great little scoops! You'll have to carve out the whole thing - see the link under Notes for storage of excess dragonfruit for days to weeks. This is also important if you're making overnight oats.

4. Weigh out 70g of prepared dragonfruit - I recommend using the messiest pieces, then add a few attractive pieces. The messy pieces will be mashed up, and the pretty ones reserved to go on top.

Overnight Oats
5. Combine the oats, prepared kiwi, prepared star fruit and whey in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, pour in the milk, then the coconut water (or shake in the bottle and transfer to a bowl). Mix in the mashed dragon fruit, minus the pretty pieces.

6. Set in the fridge overnight.

7. The next morning, heat in the microwave for 1 minute, stir, then microwave for another minute. Continue for 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between, until desired consistency is reached. Add a tablespoon or so of water if needed.

8. Arrange star fruit slices and dragonfruit on top and serve.

Oats On The Hob
5. Combine the oats and whey in a saucepan. Slowly, stirring all the while, add the pureed star fruit and kiwi, then the milk, then the coconut water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer for 15 or so minutes, until desired consistency is reached.

6. Arrange star fruit slices and dragonfruit on top and serve.


Notes
• I sourced my star fruit and dragonfruit from Fine Foods Specialist.
• I used Pulsin premium whey.
• I used Rebel Kitchen coconut water (it's pink!)


Nutrition
Without 20g whey
260 cals, 3g fat, 49.5g carbs (24g natural sugars), 8.5g fibre, 7.5g protein, 2 of 5 a day
For porridge with whey, add: 80 cals, 0.6g carbs, 18.6g protein




Thursday, 12 July 2018

Khaz Modan Porridge - Warcraft, Battle For Azeroth

   Khaz Modan. The dwarven kingdom. Embodying their home of Dun Morogh, Loch Modan, Searing Gorge, The Badlands and more besides, it's far from a small region. The dwarves are among the oldest of races, created out of stone by the Titans and turned into mortal dwarves through the Curse of Flesh, they have the broadest range - especially with the animosity between the largest of the clans. Their cultures have a foundation in Norse and Scottish lore and history, as many dwarves from many other sources do.
   Dwarves are the only other Alliance faction aside from night elves (whose porridge I posted last week) that I've ever been able to play - though I also admit that I only have one dwarf, and I levelled her to 100 with the pre-expansion Legion invasion event and haven't touched her since. Either way, I am still fond of dwarves in all their incarnations, though my heart belongs to Dwalin.

   I will take this moment to address something for fellow Warcraft players, and that's the region.
   You might think I've been a bit vague in my choice of names here, but, in fact, I've been tactical. My original plan was a Dun Morogh porridge, nice and simple - creamy with cold-weather fruits. But, for the sake of equality, I also wanted to make a porridge for the gnomes. The trouble there, though, is that their region is also Dun Morogh, and as they're not known for their forays in food - they're tinkers and engineers, if they remember to eat at all in their enthusiasm - I've had to re-evaluate the two. In fact, up until last week, they weren't going to get one at all, but after an ambitious thought and fortunate line of research I managed to find something else for the dwarves. It's not for everyone, though, so while I've reassigned the original dwarven porridge of Dun Morogh (next week) to the gnomes, they are actually interchangable, so don't feel like you're being hard done-by.

   And now I move on to addressing the second matter for everyone reading this post: the idea of porridge and beer.
   First let me start by saying that it's not actually all that crazy. The Danish have been doing it since the middle ages (Øllebrød, if you're interested). But where they used stale rye bread, we're using rolled oats - just to keep with the present format. Though I may well try it the authentic way in the near future if just to satisfy my curiosity. But you could always use rye flakes instead of rolled oats - it's up to you.
   Now, for the uninitiated (among whom I numbered until reading into this matter just last week), malt beer is actually very, very low alcohol - often 0.5% and no more than 2% - and can easily be made alcohol-free without anyone noticing. So for this porridge you can use malted beer, dark wheat soda or dark malta - the latter being a soft drink and completely free of alcohol, while still being made of the same ingredients and harbouring the same taste, just without the fermentation. So if you're worried about getting tipsy at breakfast, forget about it.
   Beer, in moderation, is actually relatively good for you. But - let's not get ahead of ourselves - moderation means one glass of beer a week.
   Beer is an all-natural product made from malted (sprouted and then dried) barley, yeast, hops, cereal and water. It's a good source of soluable fibre, derived from the malted barley, which contributes to healthy bowel function. One 175ml glass of red wine contains almost 6g of carbs, about 5.5g of which are sugar and no soluable fibre at all, whereas 100ml malt beer contains almost 6g of carbs, only 3g of which are sugars and the rest is soluable fibre. It also contains protein, B-vitamins and antioxidants, and is a very strong source of the mineral silicon which contributes, in moderation, to bone health. But, remember: it cannot replace calcium, veggies or weight-bearing exercise.


   The porridge has a mellow, earthy flavour and its bitterness is offset by brown sugar (or honey, if preferred) and the dash of flavour from bilberries/blueberries. It's a great option for those who prefer a less sweet start to the day, and those who enjoy the flavour of malted barley and hops without the alcohol content. Suitable for those of all dwarvish descent.

See also: Tirisfal Glades  ♥  Teldrassil  ♥  Muglore

#BreakfastOfChampions

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g oats
100ml milk
100ml malt beer
Optional 20g protein
1-2 tsp (5-10g) brown sugar
30g bilberries (or blueberries)


Method
1. Combine the oats and protein in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, add the milk (or shake and transfer to a bowl).

2. Add the malt beer and stir.

3. Set in the fridge overnight.

4. Cook either:
On the hob - bring to a slow boil over medium-low, then reduce to a simmer and allow to thicken for 15-20 minutes 
Microwave - heat on full power for 1 minute, stir, then heat for another minute. Continue heating in 20-second bursts, stirring in between, until desired consistency is reached. Add more beer or water to thin if necessary.

5. Put the bilberries in a separate pan and heat on low until they begin to burst - or microwave for 15-20 seconds. Spoon over the porridge and serve.


Notes
• I used Budel's malty dark 0.0% - nutrition table.
• I used Pulsin premium whey.


Nutrition
Without whey, with 5g brown sugar
214 cals, 2.5g fat (0.5g sat), 38.5g carbs (11.5g natural sugar, 5g added), 5g fibre, 3.5g protein
For 20g whey, add:
80 cals, 0.6g carbs, 18.6g protein





Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Our Day of Falconry with John Dowling

   As a wedding gift for Seeg, I bought a falconry experience day. He's always loved raptors - any time a sparrow hawk lands in the garden he gets chills and stands there for ages watching it, then watching where it had been once it flies off. It's something he's toyed with the idea of pursuing, too - of course, just how to get started is the biggest issue; it's always seemed like one of those things that require chance and opportunity rather than something that could be sought out, and even if it could be, trainers would be few and far between.
   Either way, before he could give such a thing any serious thought, I felt it would be best to give him the opportunity to get close to the birds and an experience day was, to my mind, the best way to go about it.

   I found John Dowling Falconry on Google after searching for falconry experience days in Bristol, and not only did he have top results, but he offered a range of experiences from a single hour to a full day. Since it was a wedding gift, and something that could potentially be the start of something much, much more, the full 6-hour experience seemed best. It would give him time to exhaust his nerves, calm down and get relatively comfortable around the birds.
   And, I admit it was cheeky, I decided to join in.

   We started at 10, and it was not a cool day. 28 C without a cloud in the sky and very little breeze. I'd wondered if it was even still on since it was so hot, but I reasoned that a professional knows his birds and that he wouldn't endanger them (the entire 6-hour experience with John and Michaela confirmed that assumption), so we went on ahead.
   Both the people and location were wonderful, shared with the Avon Riding School - there was one relatively simple rule for harmonious living: if there's a horse in the field, don't fly the bird in it. If someone's flying a bird in the field, don't put a horse in it.
   After introductions, we proceeded with the morning. First, we watched them fly Quetzalli, a peregrin-aplomado hybrid, then Scirocco, a full-bred peregrin. The birds were allowed to fly freely - with light-weight transmitters, just in case - then began swinging the lure around with a yummy little chick attached to it. The bird would dive, make passes, make turns and use decoys - the sun and, at one point, us - to hide its approach to the lurer, and when finally it hit the lure, it was allowed the prize. Of course, it was a hot day, so when the birds began to gape (which is basically avian panting) they would let them have the lure rather than pulling it away. It got its prize, duly rewarded.
   Then, we got to fly one. A kestrel named Spike. I knew they were quite small, but I hadn't really realised how small. You don't usually get the chance to make out the size of such things in the wild. We had falconry gloves and were given morsels of meat and the birds would fly fromt he handler to us then back again, giving us the chance to marvel and take pictures. We didn't take many - it was the kind of thing we wanted to actually experience, not take photos of and forget the feeling of. I was quite surprised by how light the bird was. If I'd prioritised pictures, I'd have forgotten that detail by now. It was amazing.


   We had lunch and a chat, saw pictures of some of his other birds and chicks he was rearing, and asked about the profession. Then we were back outside.
   We watched them fly another peregrin hybrid, crossed with a saker, who was prone to being difficult, if not just flying off. They brought the transmitter receiver with them just in case, but, in true rain-coat-theory fashion, we didn't need it. He was perfectly well-behaved.
   Then we were flying again, and this time it was a harris hawk named JJ and we were out in the woods rather than open fields. We saw his agility, watched him fly through the trees, land from the trees to our gloves and then off again. He was a bit of a showman, too. We took him to a field at the end of the forest and Seeg and I stood only a foot apart, and the bird flew towards us, tucked in his wings, darted between us and then onto Michaela's glove. He did it several times, and it was so hard not to turn my head away and close my eyes on instinct. I only managed it once. I felt so stupid. But it was also so awesome.
   They tried to get him to soar, but he was too hot, and at one point rather than fly to a glove he just ran across the ground towards us. Much like a dinosaur. And I do love dinosaurs. After that he flew up onto Seeg's glove and stayed there, then the gaping started, so I was really, really pleased that Seeg was the one to carry him back into the cooler woods rather than the handlers. Just that little bit more, you know? He flew about quite happily in there for a little bit longer, then was rewarded with a mouse.


   After JJ came Tony, a 9-year-old barn owl. But he was just coming off a rest period and had to be retrained, as all the birds do. They're barely domesticated, and they certainly don't have the in-bred domestication that dogs do, so when they're left alone for a while, they need a refresher course. Tony was being flown on the training line rather than freely, just in case he decided to leave, and we were the first strangers he would have flown with for a long while. We were guinea pigs in that sense, and while he did land on our gloves, he preferred to land on John's shoulder. Because he loves his daddy. And that's all totally fair enough. Animals are animals, and I find them wholly more reasonable than people.

   The whole experience was amazing. It went really well - so well that Seeg put himself out there at the end and asked about training and volunteer work. John, Michaela and Lizzie were all so friendly and made us both really comfortable very quickly - and we're not people-people - and the location itself is great. The birds have lots of room to fly, and with the site on a hill, they have an easy time getting to good heights so they can fly freely, fly far, but they're still within sight.
   And, to be honest, I have great respect for John. Seeing his hand shaking after luring the birds was amazing - no matter how long he's been doing it, he's still fully aware that he's directly interacting with a near-wild animal's primal instinct to hunt and kill. And that alone demands a respect of the man even if you've never met him. He's not been jaded. It hasn't become mundane, and he clearly respects the creatures he loves and works with. I know I have no one else to compare him to, but if Seeg were to pursue falconry, working under someone with that kind of respect could be nothing but the best example.


   Genuinely, I can't recommend John Dowling's Falconry Academy enough. The people, the birds, the honesty, and the amount we've learned - from the origins of the phrases 'fed up' and 'rouse yourself' to habits and conduct among different species - makes the whole experience well-rounded and generally unforgettable.
   And, most importantly, Seeg got his first taste. And it stoked the fire.

   Oh, and JJ moulted a feather just before we started so we have a cool souvenir :B




Monday, 9 July 2018

Mulgore Porridge - Warcraft, Battle For Azeroth

   Mulgore. Wide, expansive grasslands, mesas and bluffs, studded with tribal totem poles and burial grounds. Every tauren outpost and settlement within and across Mulgore's borders, regardless of surroundings, features the same muted atmosphere and quiet reverence of nature and spirituality. Inspired by Native American culture and customs, they're at one with nature and have found ways to harvest its bounty without upsetting the natural balance or compromising the love of the Earth Mother. They embody a great many philosophies which I hold fast to, and in fact what I think most of the world should try to adhere to. And yet, I've never been able to play a tauren. I've tried a number of times but I just can't do it. I have only one surviving tauren - a 101 feral druid - but I used my free character boost on her at Legion's release and I've barely touched her. That extra level of hers came from a few world even dungeons and mount attempts. She doesn't even have her artefact.
   Instead, the tauren are Seeg's favourite race - just as my first character was an undead warlock, his was a tauren druid who survives to this day, and it's his passion that has made me take notice of them and like them all the more, even if I can't seem to play them.

   Inspired by the local ingredients and conservative manner of their harvesting, this porridge is probably my favourite of all I've done for this project. It's the prettiest, the most nutritious, and the second most unique (wait for Khaz Modan on Thursday).
   Sweet potatoes colour, bulk and sweeten the porridge oat base, maca root powder gives in a superfood edge, while the blueberries streak their sweetness and the seeds and granola add crunch for a delightful shift in texture. And the whole thing counts as almost 2 of your 5 a day.


See also: Tirisfal Glades  ♥  Teldrassil

#BreakfastOfChampions

Ingredients
Serves 1
80g-100g sweet potato
30g oats
Optional 20g whey protein
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5g/2tsp maca root powder
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
50g blueberries
10g granola/nuts/seeds
Optional honey to taste


Method
1. Peel and chop a sweet potato. Set in a pan with hot water, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 12 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Overnight Oats
2. Combine oats, whey (if using), cinnamon and maca root in a bowl (or shaker bottle), then add the milk and water. Stir (or shake) until thoroughly mixed (and transfer to a bowl or jar).

3. Mix in the sweet potato.

4. Set in the fridge overnight.

5. Microwave for 2x 1 minute the next morning, then 30 second bursts until satisfied with the texture. Top with blueberries and granola/nuts/seeds and serve. Drizzle with local honey if desired.

Oats on the hob
2. Boil 100ml water

3. Combine oats, whey (if using), cinnamon and maca root in a pan. Add the milk slowly, stirring as you go - this is especially important if you're using whey.

4. Mix in the sweet potato.

5. Stir in the hot water and mix again.

6. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to low to thicken for 15-20 minutes.

7. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with blueberries, granola, nuts and seeds and serve. Drizzle local honey if desired.


Notes
• I used MyProtein Maca
• I used Pulsin's Premium Whey
• I used Deliciously Ella original granola mix
• I took 1/3 of my blueberries and heated them for 30 seconds in the microwave to make them soft and to release juice. I put this on the porridge first, then put the remaining 2/3 blueberries on top.
• Always add honey after heating. The heat kills off the beneficial bacteria, just as it does with miso, sauerkraut, kefir and so on.


Nutrition
100g sweet potato; without 20g protein, without honey
337 calories, 4.5g fat (1g sat), 60g carbs (15g natural sugar, 4g added), 8g fibre, 11g protein, 1.5 of 5 a day
With protein, add 80 cals, 0.5g carbs, 18.5g protein
 




Sunday, 8 July 2018

Core de Force DVD Review

Price: £60 / $75
Length: 6x 20-40 minutes
Workouts: All-over body (cardio, abs, strength)
Suitable for: everyone; some kickboxing knowledge recommended
Overall Rating:   ★★★★★
Enjoyment:  ★★★★★   Difficulty:  ★★★★☆   Results:  ★★★★★
Based on 4 weeks of use


   BeachBody. We all know P90-X. I tried a taster version back in 2014. And Insanity, which I gave up on after 1 week. It was well beyond my abilities. That said, time has moved on, and when I was given Core de Force for Christmas, a 3-disc, 6-workout MMA box set, I was very daunted - but very excited. But it took me some time to finally try it. I had other workouts lined up to use, and then I started a new training structure that threw my 4-year-old one-month-one-DVD plan out of the window, turning instead to a steady resistance plan for 3 months at a time. Well, I decided to take a brief haitus from that and turn back to circuit training DVDs, if just to remind myself why I love resistance training so much. See, I can trust myself to do steady resistance training to the very best of my ability without a DVD to count me through. But I can't trust myself not to phone in cardio. So I rely on DVDs there, which also means that my DVDs are brutal. Beach Body's Core de Force is no exception, but as it was the only brutal DVD I had that I hadn't yet tried, and I love martial arts, it seemed the obvious choice...and my goodness did it do the job. And did it ever make me smile and sweat.

Kit
   Zilch. Though if you have a hardwood or laminate floor I would suggest gloves of some kind, because a few chest-to-floor-to-fighting-stance do sneak in and you will get so sweaty that you're liable to slip. Trust me. I know. Otherwise, a towel and water bottle. Yes, I know, "this is basic stuff, Kim - you never usually mention it." Perhaps, but this time I really, really mean it.


Structure
   All 6 workouts across the DVDs are made up of 3-minute rounds, ranging from 20 minutes (6 rounds) to 40 minutes (12 rounds), and covering offence and defence; boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai; cardio, interval training and body weight resistance.
   In four of the six workouts, the 3-minute circuits are broken down into 1 minute of sequences, 30 seconds cardio spike, 1 minute sequence repeat, 30 seconds cardio spike repeat. In the remaining two workouts, they're broken into 3 1-minute moves with no cardio spike. Then, on all counts, comes a 30-second rest, during which time the next moves are demonstrated and you're free to grab a desperately needed drink. Do. Not. Skip.
   Then there's the added feature of a timer bar at the bottom of the screen throughout, so you know when you have 6 seconds of a sequence left and that it's not worth holding back, or 6 seconds of a break and it's time to put down the bottle and get into your stance - but on top of that timer bar they've outlined the sequence you're doing, so there's no chance of forgetting, and you can come back much more easily and quickly if you get lost. This is an incredibly valuable feature. I got lost more than a handful of times.
   Every circuit is set into its own chapter on the DVD, too, making it easy to skip 'easy' rounds if you're short on time (but don't cheat yourself) or to find where you left off the last time if you were using part of a workout as supplemental cardio after a resistance session. Say if you often only have 20 minutes but don't want to keep using the same 20 minute workout, you could do the first half of a 40-minute workout one day and finish it later, or the next.
   Then there are the DVD bonuses - think rest-day active recovery, core workouts, pre-bedtime stretches and so on. This box set is simply loaded with activity.


Training & Eating Plan
   Yup, like many weight-loss programs, Core de Force comes with a workout calendar and an eating plan. But rather than just containing healthy recipes - which it does, in force, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, dressings and sauces - it also outlines portion sizes for fruits, veg, healthy fats, protein, carbs, seeds and dressings, and helps you figure out your calorie goal based on weight and activity (ie using the workout calendar which is also provided). It doesn't cut out any macros, it encourages a healthy, balanced diet and accommodates the rise in the stress hormone, cortisol, by encouraging an increased carb intake on week 2 and 3.
   The 'eating plan' isn't strict, though - it's not 'Monday: eat this, eat that, eat the other'. It just outlines the number of servings of the above macros you should ensure you get a day, which varies from week to week, and it already provides a list of different such foods for a broad variety and what counts as a portion, as I've already said. And it's quite...varied. How often is guava on the menu? And I don't even know what cassava or jicama are! Suddenly, this eating plan has opened up whole new doors...

Difficulty
   It's not for the faint-hearted, but that's not to say it's for intermediate+. There are the two instructors, Joel and Jericho, both of whom alternate in instruction and always take part. These aren't instructors who will wander around talking rather than doing, they get stuck in with you.
   But, as someone who has plenty of experience with kickboxing DVDs, I was shocked by how advanced this DVD set gets. In every workout there were new moves, in some, multiple, and while I struggled at first, I learned as I went on. Just as I did when I first started kickboxing. It's about practice and patience. But even then, it doesn't take long, and there is an optional 7-minute 'Learn It & Work It' section for the workouts in which the moves are broken down if you're really having trouble.
   However, if you're a beginner - to martial arts or exercise - let me take a moment to mention Jessica. First of all, she deserves kudos on a personal level for standing next to the rest and enjoying yourself. She's there to demonstrate the beginner's versions, but in doing so she also proves that these workouts are for everyone. And kudos also have to be handed to BeachBody for actually having her there in the first place. You never see non-shredded people in workout DVDs. Instead, they tend to focus on people to aspire to - and that's great, but having an ordinary person there is great for motivation, too. It reminds you that you have no excuse. As I said, these workouts are for everyone.
   Your sole issue, really, will be co-ordination, but that's something that will improve over time. And if you flail your way through the workout and feel you did a terrible job, remember this old adage: the only bad workout is the one you didn't do.


Variety
   Variety is a big thing here. You would think that 6 workouts ranging from 20-40 minutes would get repetative, but they don't. Disc 1 features a 20-minute boxing workout which is not to be sniffed at, and a 40-minute bodyweight resistance workout. Disc 2 features a 40-minute Muay Thai workout, and a more explosive 30-minute bodyweight resistance workout with very different moves from the first. Disc 3 features a 40-minute defensive kickboxing workout, teaching blocks and escapes as well as combinations, and a 40-minute mixed workout with boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai, with defense, and with jumping. It's called 'plyo' but, to be honest, the plyo actually sneaks in. You only really notice the jump squats and the lateral-to-vertical jumps which each occur twice for two sets of 30 seconds, but jumps are also incorporated into sequences with 'flying' punches and knee strikes. It's ridiculously good fun, once you grasp the footwork. Patience is key, and dropping down to the beginner modifications if just to avoid flailing or hurting yourself. I had to, you probably will, too.
   Then comes the supplemental sequences. Each disc features a 5-minute plank sequence that targets your abs as a general, optional finisher. Then disc 1 also includes a 15-minute core workout that takes it much further with martial arts focused movements, disc 2 has a 5-minute pre-bed stretch that you can do in minimal space, and disc 3 has a 20-minute active recovery workout for your rest day that spends 10 minutes warming your body up with a number of fighting moves from the other workouts, slowing them down and focusing on form and technique rather than speed, then stretching your whole body for another 10 minutes. You will work up a mild sweat, but it's more interesting - and shorter - than an afternoon walk, avoids stretching cold muscles which will lead to injury, and it can also help future workouts by having spent some time to sharpen your form and positioning.


Instruction
   The instructors aren't too aggressive, they're having fun but they're doing a damned good job of instructing, too. Good form, what not to do, breaking moves down, and alternating the lead - while one keeps working, the other takes 10 seconds out before the end of the 1 minute sequence to demonstrate what comes next in the 30-second cardio spike so we can jump in without stopping or flailing. Initially I was intimidated by them, but I really grew to love them both quite quickly. They're enthusiastic, but not in an irritating way, and they not only seem to enjoy what they're doing but they genuinely want you to enjoy it, too.

Learning Device
   This is a category I've never really addressed in my DVD reviews, and the fact that it's here right now means that it's actually quite a prominent feature. No, they're not actually there with you, no, they can't see if you're actually doing it wrong, but the moves on this DVD are so vast and varied that there is so very much to learn, and so very much room to grow in. I've been using kickboxing DVDs for a few years now, I've got the basics, and I thought I was actually quite good at it and fairly well-versed, but as soon as I hit 'play' on the first DVD, I realised how wrong I was. By the end of it, I couldn't believe how naive I'd been, nor how advanced MMA can get. I was confident in my skills before hand, and I thought I could take someone on, though I never, ever wanted to. Now, however, knowing how much I have to learn, I think I would run for the hills if anyone challenged me in a friendly fight. At least until I had this in my back pocket. Because then I could hit them with it. Or fling the discs from a distance.
   There is so much to learn, so much room to grow, and it's opened my eyes to something I already loved and showed me that, truly, I could live in MMA alone. It will never, ever become easy or straight forward. It will never not present a challenge.


Verdict
   Kickboxing is one of the most effective forms of exercise because it combines resistance with cardio, and encourages speed with good form. HIIT is also a very highly regarded workout method for fatloss. So combine the two and you have a winning workout that is both enjoyable and effective. Then double that awesomeness for the fact that you're provided 6 workouts with equal effectiveness and yet very different flavours. Then increase it again for the fact that there are so few good MMA workout DVDs out there and yet you're provided with 6 incredible choices right here. And that's coming from someone who has tried a good many kickboxing workouts in the past. And I have held them in very high regard.
   Until now.
   Core de Force is officially my top-rated cardio/HIIT/martial arts workout. It will take a lot to knock it off of that spot. And I hope something does, because that workout would be the pinnacle of epic, if not set fire to body fat directly.

   Get it. I know the price is steep - search Ebay, if you have to. It is so totally worth it. 6 discs of martial arts workouts focusing on boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai, with immense cardio, toning and resistance with no kit at all. Everything can be modified, everything can be intensified. It's for everyone, even if it doesn't seem it at first. And whether you turn into a tomato at the end - or a beetroot, in my case - you will never walk away from it feeling like you made the wrong decision. Aside from the fact that exercise is never the wrong choice, any one of the workouts from this set will take you to your personal max, wherever that bar might be, and you will enjoy getting there, and feel so proud when you break through it.



Friday, 6 July 2018

Chocolate Praline Porridge + Truffles - World Chocolate Day Breakfast

   Tomorrow is a very, very important day. It's World Chocolate Day. I don't usually get behind these silly National Whatsit Day because it just seems to happen all the time and for the stupidest things. Raising awareness, like Earth Day, or World Penguin Day, fine. But Odd Socks Day - which I'm sure had a charitable meaning once - is just ridiculous. And don't get me started on Selfie Day.
   World Chocolate Day, though, is one of the few frivolous occasions I can get behind. Because it is my vice. However, this is also a health and fitness blog, so my contribution has to be a little healthier than others. But that's not to say that it's not decadent, and nor is it to say that I expect this to be your only chocolate treat of the day. Rather, it's a healthy and chocolatey start to a day that is sure to involve some consumption of actual chocolate, and this is just a good way to get in the spirit without getting off to a bad start, or beginning your celebration too early.

   This porridge is made with steel cut oats, which are nuttier than rolled oats, and includes cacao powder (great for your heart) and is garnished with hazelnuts and dark chocolate shavings. The nutritional info at the foot of this post is for the quantities of nuts and chocolate listed, but the earth won't drop out of orbit if you add a little more.
   But this porridge is also topped with mini praline protein truffles. Yes, you read that right. Hazelnuts, dates and cacao, combined with protein and peanut flour and rolled into tiny little balls.


Ingredients
Serves 1
Porridge
40g steel cut oats
100ml water
100ml milk
20g protein powder
10g cacao powder (or 20g chocolate whey)
5g chopped hazelnuts to garnish
5g 70% dark chocolate shavings to garnish (or preferred)
Protein Truffles (makes 12)*
30g dates (8-9)
40g roasted hazelnuts
25g protein powder (I used whey)
10g cacao powder
10g peanut flour


Method
Protein Truffles
1. Add all ingredients for the protein truffles in a food processor and blitz until combined. If the mixture seems too dry, add a teaspoon of water. If it's too wet, add more peanut flour, cacao or protein powder, 1 teaspoon at a time.

2. Scoop it all out and roll it into a log. Cut in half, cut each in half again, then cut each 1/4 of the log into 1/3 to make 12. Roll each piece into a small ball. Store in a ziploc bag.

Porridge
Overnight Oats
1. Thoroughly combine oats, protein powder and cacao powder in a bowl (or shaker bottle).

2. Stirring all the while, pour in the milk, then the water (or shake in a shaker bottle and transfer to a bowl).

3. Set in the fridge overnight.

4. The following morning, microwave for 1 minute on full power, mix, then microwave for another minute. Continue microwaving in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until desired consistency is reached.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil 100ml water

2. Thoroughly combine the oats, protein powder and cacao in a pan.

3. Stirring all the while, pour in the milk, then the boiled water, and bring the pan to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes until thick and transfer to a bowl.

Garnish with chopped hazelnuts, grated chocolate and as many protein truffles as you like!


Notes
• *Graze's cocoa & peanut butter mini protein balls work just as well if you can't be bothered with the work, and Pulsin's peanut choc chip brownie bar is divine when chopped and scattered on top.
• I used Pulsin's Premium Whey protein powder.
• I used Aduna's super cacao.


Nutrition
Without protein truffles
257 cals, 9g fat (2.5g sat), 37g carbs (7.5g natural sugars), 8.5g fibre, 30g protein
1 truffle (1/12th mix)
35 cals, 2.5g fat (0.2g sat), 2.85g carbs (1.8g sugar), 0.9g fibre, 3g protein




Thursday, 5 July 2018

Teldrassil Porridge - Warcraft, Battle For Azeroth

   Teldrassil. One of the five vast World Trees and home to the night elves. Bathed in shadow from the thick crown, it hosts a unique and eternally-twilight ecosystem. It's one of my favourite zones, conjuring to mind shades of silver and dusky purple hues amongst thick foliage and floating orbs of lunar light.
   Night elves are an Alliance race, and though I've long been pro-Horde, they are one of the two Alliance races I'm happy to play, second being dwarves. I'm not keen on elves in general, my heart lies with the latter, but night elves manage to cut it if just for their culture and colours.
   In the coming expansion, however - and I do feel a little guilty about it - the Horde burn Teldrassil down. I'm not yet privvy to the details - perhaps it's explained in Before The Storm, which is sitting on my nightstand beside The Redemption of Althalus, which I've very nearly finished, if not in an in-game pre-expansion event. But regardless, the World Tree will burn, likely as most by the order of the Dark Lady. Which is presumably why Tirisfal Glades falls under siege shortly afterwards, as mentioned on Monday in my Tirisfal Glades porridge.

   I made this porridge to reflect the night elves' devotion to Elune, the Goddess of the Moon, and tried, as last time, to use ingredients that would be found in the region - namely berries, butterfly pea flowers and elderflowers.


   The priestesses often wear shades of white and silver, so I used white mulberries, dragon fruit and elderflowers and arranged them in a crescent, while the purple porridge - naturally coloured, as always - resembles a combination of their skin, cultural colours and general ambience of Teldrassil. Moonberries weren't an option, sadly, so I've used blueberries instead along with 1/4 teaspoon of butterfly pea flower - often used in Malay cooking and a Thai tea - to give it a lilac colour without hampering the flavour of the porridge, which itself is elderflower.
   As always, nutritional information and notes are at the foot of this post. I always subtract the whey and added the info as an addition beneath the base porridge because not everyone may have protein powder on hand, and the same goes for the dragon fruit and mulberries.

See also: Tirisfal Glades

#BreakfastOfChampions

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g oats
Optional 20g whey protein
100ml skimmed milk
10ml elderflower cordial, undiluted
100ml water
1/4 tsp butterfly pea flower
30g blueberries
Optional: elderflowers for garnish
Optional: white mulberries for garnish (fresh or dried)
Optional: 4 dragonfruit balls for garnish (approx 20g)


Method
Overnight Oats
1. Combine oats, whey, butterfly pea flower in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, add the milk, then the water, and mix until combined (or shake and transfer to a bowl).

2. Add blueberries and set in the fridge overnight.

3. The following morning, heat in the microwave for 1 minute, then stir, and heat for another minute. Then heat for 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between, until desired consistency is met. Add more water if needed, then stir in the cordial once complete. Go to step 5 below.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil 100ml water.

2. Combine oats, whey and butterfly pea flower in a saucepan and, stirring all the while, slowly add the milk and boiling water.

3. Stir in the blueberries, then bring to a boil over medium heat, and reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened to your liking, stirring occasionally.

4. Transfer to a bowl and add the cordial, stirring through.

5. Garnish with scoops of dragonfruit - see notes for how to prepare and store left-over dragonfruit - mulberries, fresh or rehydrated (soak dried berries in hot water for 10-15 minutes and drain), and elderflowers. Serve immediately.


Notes
• I used 8g dried mulberries
• I used Pulsin premium whey.
• I used Belvoir organic elderflower cordial.
• I sourced my elderflowers & dragonfruit from Fine Food Specialist.
How to prepare & store dragonfruit.


Nutrition
Without whey or garnish
205 cals, 2.5g fat (0.5g sat), 33g carbs (9.5g natural sugar, 2g added), 3.5g fibre, 6.5g protein
20g whey:
80 cals, 0.6g carbs, 18.6g protein
20g Dragonfruit:
12 cals, 0.5g fat, 2g carbs (2g sugar), 0.5g protein
8g dried mulberries:
20.5 cals, 4.5g carbs (3g sugar), 1g fibre, 1g protein




Monday, 2 July 2018

Tirisfal Glades Porridge - Warcraft, Battle For Azeroth

   Thorns. Fungi. Pockets of beauty, if melancholy, and an air of resignation to that fact. Setting aside the Dark Lady and her faithful Forsaken, this is the image I have of Tirisfal Glades. An undead warlock was the first character I ever made on World of Warcraft on my then-boyfriend's account. I got my own account and made her again, then changed server and made her again. This was back in late 2007, half way through The Burning Crusade and when the game was still relatively 'Vanilla' - at least by my standards.
   Tirisfal Glades features my favourite spot in the whole expansive world. The Ruins of Lordaeron. If you turn your sound all the way up and stand in the throne room for a while, you'll start to hear voices. They're clippings from the original Warcraft strategy games and revolve around the downfall of the kingdom. If you walk through the corridors you can hear the cheering of crowds welcoming Prince Arthas home. And there's blood on the throne room floor from when Arthas then killed his father, the king. In a game filled with undead, scourge and blight, this is the only truly 'haunted' place in the game.

    A new expansion is coming on August 14th - Battle For Azeroth. And a prelude to that expansion is the loss of Tirisfal Glades by the Horde. After the burning of Teldrassil, the Alliance strike the Undercity and home of Sylvanas, Dark Lady and Warchief of the Horde. Which means that, as a die-hard Horde fan, Tirisfal Glades and its haunted ruins will be lost to me.

   Inspired by the landscape of Tirisfal Glades, this porridge embodies the bleak shades and contrast of beauty and decay (yum), and is made from ingredients that would be found in the region. Except, perhaps, the toadstools. They're actually Oreo cream...


   Sour green apple provides a subtle body, while the blackberries add a sharp sweetness and great colour. The snapdragon flowers are edible, but very optional, as are the Oreo toadstools, which are the same as those I used on my forest wedding cake!
   The protein powder is also optional, but it will keep you full for longer, and you can add more oats if desired. The great thing about porridge is that if you add too many oats and it looks like it's getting too thick, you can add more water to thin it out.

#BreakfastOfChampions

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g rolled oats (or preferred)
100ml water
100ml skimmed milk
Optional 20g whey protein
65g blackberries
1 Granny Smith sour apple
Optional 1 Oreo
Optional Snapdragon flowers


Method
Overnight oats
1. Peel, core and dice the apple and set in a saucepan over medium heat with 2 tbsp water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Mash the apple, if desired, then add the blackberries to the pan and heat for another 10 minutes.

3. Combine the oats and whey in a bowl (or shaker bottle). Slowly add the milk, stirring all the while, then add the water (or add both to the bottle and shake, then transfer to a bowl).

4. Mix the apple and blackberries into the porridge and set in the fridge overnight.

5. Heat in the microwave the following morning 2x 1 minute on full power, stirring in between, then 30 second bursts until the desired consistency is reached. Jump to step 6.

Oats on the hob
1. Boil the water.

2. Peel, core and dice the apple and set in a saucepan over medium heat with 2 tbsp water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Mash the apple, if desired, then add the blackberries to the pan and heat for another 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the oats and whey into the saucepan. Slowly add the milk, stirring all the while, then add the boiled water. Bring back to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the desired consistency is reached.

5. Transfer to a bowl.

6. Toadstools - split 1 Oreo cookie and scrape off the cream, split in half and shape three small stalks and three hoods, and combine. If you wish to take a picture of your porridge, don't add the toadstools until you're ready to press the button. They may well melt. Making them out of meringue is a sturdier option, but it's also much more time consuming and results in wasted egg yolks and probably wasted meringue, too.

7. Arrange flowers and toadstools, serve immediately.


Notes
• I sourced my snapdragon flowers from Fine Foods Specialist. Check the notes of my Chocolate Hazelnut Porridge recipe for info on using these flowers.
• I used Pulsin premium whey


Nutrition
Without 20g whey or Oreo
250 calories, 3g fat, 47g carbs (24g sugar, all natural), 7g fibre, 4g protein, 2 of 5 a day
For porridge with whey, add: 80 cals, 0.6g carbs, 18.6g protein
For the Oreo, see the info on the packet. 




Resistance Training - July to September

   Today, I go back to training. I had so much fun with Core de Force last month, but it's time to return to resistance.
   I got some serious results the last time I used Whitney Simmons' lower body workouts - I'm not kidding you, my bum's gotten bigger, and I am absolutely not imagining it. It's noticable. Why? Well, for a start, she knows what she's doing, but it's also because any time I've done resistance in the past it's been under the guidance of a DVD - and that's meant that it's all been timed, giving me no chance with the weights I had to reach muscle fatigue. But by abandoning DVDs and timed intervals, I was able to focus on form and depth over speed. I was also able to use my new barbell, which itself has meant that I have much heavier weights on hand and, in turn, requires a focus on form beyond safety. There's no use lifting a heavy weight if you're going to lift it wrong. You're more prone to injury, but you're also wasting your time on a more serious level because you're just not going to get the gains you expect.

   I've gathered three workouts - two lower body workout videos from Whitney Simmons, and the total-body workout Alicia Vikander used for her role in Tomb Raider. No, I haven't seen it, and no, I don't care to. They've never appealed to me. And neither does the crazy ketosis diet. But the workout, at least, looks good.
   But I'm also going to keep using Core de Force. Because every workout is made up of either 6, 9 or 12 3-minute circuits, I can easily use just 15 minutes of any of the workouts at the end of the resistance, and because every one of those 3-minute circuits sits in its own DVD 'chapter', I'm in no danger of repeating the first 15 minutes over and over again and exhausting half of the DVDs. I can pick up where I left off with no problem.
   But I'm also going to use a whole CdF session for one of my workouts at the end of the week.

Monday - Whitney Simmons' lower body
Tuesday - Core de Force Active Recovery
Wednesday - The Magnus Method (Alicia Vikander's workout) upper & lower combined, phase 1, via Women's Fitness April 2018, minus leg press & tricep push-down
Friday - Whitney Simmons' lower body
Saturday - Core de Force of choice.

   This is the plan for every week as of July 2nd to September 29th, perhaps with a week off half way through for some partial recovery and low-impact work. We will see if it's necessary.
   ...But, I admit, this first week should be a little different.
   In my experience, I'm always at my sorest when I start a new workout. It's the way for most people, but I found it even moreso when I started resistance training last time and I expect it'll go the same way this time. Immense soreness, despite 10-minute warm ups, 30-minute cool-downs and foam rolling on an afternoon & evening. So, this Friday, I'm taking it off. In favour of falconry.
   My wedding gift for Seeg was a falconry experience day, and he wants me to join him. So, this Friday, rather than take the day off to recover and sit on my very sore bum, I'm going to be flying some raptors. I am excited.



Sunday, 1 July 2018

Core de Force - 4 Weeks Later

   After four weeks, I'm usually quite sick of my workout. Either it's repetitive and mentally exhausting, boring and unenjoyable, or just downright difficult. Core de Force definitely falls into that final category. It's gruelling, with non-stop work but for 30-second breaks between every 3-minute circuit, of which there are either 6, 9 or 12 in a single workout; the combinations can get complicated, the resistance work burns, and there's nothing simple involved - no mountain climbers, butt kicks, or squats.
   Somehow, despite the heatwave, I used Core de Force every day this week - and I'm not remotely finished with it.

   All six workouts are 20-40 minutes long and feature such a variety of different martial arts that they're all completely different from each other while maintaining equal intensity and results. Seriously: boredom isn't a thing. Even the instructors are great fun.


   But, while I am in love with this collection of DVDs - and wait eagerly for something to knock it off of my number 1 spot, because whatever manages it will be nothing short of epic - I am, very reluctantly, moving on.
   Tomorrow I'm starting a new 3-month resistance plan using more free resources - videos and magazines - and I'm actually quite excited. It's going to hurt, I have no doubts about that, and I also know that the first week is going to hurt the most, but I'm still so excited about it.
   But, where my original plan was to return to the set-up of 4 resistance workouts and a little bit of cardio on the end, if I can fit it in, I've made an alteration, and Core de Force plays no small part.
   Where before I had increased the advised sets on the resistance workouts and subsequently eradicated any time for cardio (ie the bonus all-fat-burning finisher after a resistance workout), this time I'm sticking to the rules - marked sets, no extra - and I'm tacking on that all-important cardio. Resistance is great for long-term fat-burn, but throwing some cardio in at the end of a resistance workout - once your body has used up all its glycogen and has no choice but to turn to body fat for fuel, while your cardiovascular system has not yet been exhausted - can polish the session off and hike up that fat-burn even with only 15 minutes of work. And - you guessed it - that cardio is coming from Core de Force.
   But I'm also knocking off one of those four resistance workouts and turning directly to the MMA workouts for a long bodyweight HIIT session at the end of the week.


   Core de Force has been such a wonder - I wasn't expecting it to be such a gem. Especially because it was a gift from someone who isn't the fitness enthusiast I am, but who knew I loved combat workouts. Which was a risk in itself because I could - I should - have already owned it. But I didn't, and I'm immensely grateful because, good grief, it is something else.

   I'll be posting a DVD review in the next week or two. But for now, all you need to know is this: Core de Force is the MMA workout to end all. If you love boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu, you need this collection. And, truly, it's worth every penny of that immense price tag - but be sure to check Ebay first...



Thursday, 28 June 2018

BetterYou Magnesium Foot Soak & Inflatable Bath Review

   Ohh, heaven. I write this introduction upon my laptop, my next novel open on the window behind this one, Our Zoo on the TV and an evening cup of Chateau Rouge's Butterfly Lovers green tea beside me while my feet soak in a lovely magensium bath after three weeks of hard work with Core de Force. It's a workout not to be underestimated and has been totally worthy of filling my break from resistance training. My muscles are feeling it. But with so much work to do on my book cover before I can get my most recently completed title out by the end of next month, and my gallery exhibit having only just gone up, I haven't had the time to stop. I admit that the only reason I'm writing this post right now instead of continuing with my work on the huldra's domain is because I wanted to get across how wonderful this moment is.
   Oh and Seeg just handed me a piece of Cote d'Or. It just got better.


   Did you know that 64% of women skip their cool down after a workout? And only a few less than that skip their warm up? Both of these might seem needless if you already have to resort to a 20-minute express workout to squeeze it into your day - and indeed there's no such thing as a bad workout; an express workout is infinitely better than nothing - but they're both crucial in preventing injury. Even if it's a workout you've done a million times, all it takes is one slip up on form and you'll pull something, and that will compromise your next workout. A warm-up doesn't have to take long - 2-3 minutes of high knees, jumping jacks, toe touches and hip twists is perfectly good. The cool down, on the other hand, ought to take a bit longer (I usually take about 20 minutes, but I like to get deep into stretches and then I just sort of...stay there...). The stretching helps to release tension and build up of lactic acids from the muscles, and the deep breathing helps bring you back to yourself, wind down, lower the heart rate and relax the body, easing the work it has to do to repair the muscles and bones. And while the work is what triggers the change, the recovery is where it happens.

   There are a few short-cuts, though. Nothing that can replace warm-ups and cool-downs, but a few things that can reduce the strain, and my favourite by far is a magnesium soak. Buuuut again we step into the realms of time consumption (even though time tends to stand still when you're in the bath). So what do we do?
   A foot soak.


   Magnesium is absorbed both internally, by way of food and supplements, and also transdermally through the skin, into the blood and the distributed throughout the body. While it doesn't beat oral consumption, it's not too far off and is infinitely more relaxing. And when you don't have time for a bath, a foot soak is a wonderful option. Especially during a heat wave...
  BetterYou is my favourite brand for magnesium salts because theirs is mined from 1-mile deep European sea deposits in the Netherlands that are over 250 million years old (yes I'm nerding out a little bit over that), and the natural filtering and condensing that occurs in the rock means there's absolutely no man-made pollutants to contaminate them. They are the purest and most easily absorbed of magnesium deposits, meaning they're also the best you can use for sports recovery, when you want to get the most out of it.
   That said, time-of-the-month cramps can also be alleviated in this way, since magnesium levels in the body drop during the second half of your monthly cycle. And a little bit of pampering and home-spa treatment is always a good idea at that point.

   Of course, a foot soak lends a new problem - a minor one, but one I hadn't considered until I set out to actually have the foot soak: a container. I had nothing but the sink bowl. Not ideal, but it had to do. Fortunately, though, BetterYou also have an inflatable footbath, of which I am now a very happy owner. Inflatable sides and, more importantly, bottom for cushioning, it's fully collapsable, portable and non-intrustive, has carry handles and a water-fill line. The PVC is also very soft, strong and anti-bacterial, and can be inflated by mouth or with a hand pump.


   Using this for my second foot bath has been a pleasure. It's also meant that the recommended 20 minutes become 40, but that also goes to show just how convenient the foot bath is. Use it outside in the summer, on the grass, the patio, the decking, or stick it beneath your desk while you work (provided you move and cover electric cables and sockets prior to filling). Or in front of the sofa.
   I always feel better in my body after a magnesium bath, and the foot bath left me feeling just as good. My muscles are always lighter and looser, tightness is gone, cramps are alleviated and then there are the general up-lifting capabilities of a soak, be it body or feet, and the oh-so joyous coolness that comes when you pull your feet out and dry them off. But always put on clean socks. It just adds to the joy.

   BetterYou's inflatable foot bath is £9.95 and their magnesium salt flakes £3.49 and can be purchased directly from their website as well as health and well-being stores like Dolphin Fitness and Holland and Barrett. Or buy the magnesium foot bath and salts bundle and get the salts for free - but only on their website! Truly, for the purity of the salts alone, I highly recommend them. Your body - and your soul - will thank you.


Disclaimer: I was sent this product to review by the brand itself. The quantity and precise products sent were their choice, not my own. All opinions and images are my own, and all appropriate research has been done by myself from a range of sources rather than relying entirely on the product's website, especially where health products are concerned. I do not accept a product to review if I do not believe it is safe or worth my own time, regardless of any kind of reimbursement. I trial the products for an appropriate amount of time before writing reviews to check for wear-and-tear on physical items and side effects from edible (be it supplements or food). If I have negative points to voice, I will voice them, and I never, ever accept product reviews or reimbursement on the promise of a positive review. My reviews are and will only ever be honest.



Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Prickly Pear & Pitaya Protein Pancakes

   Pretty, aren't they? Perfectly palatable. And it's pancakes, this time, not porridge.
   Yes, I've been playing with prickly pears again, and this time some dragonfruit has slipped into the mix. Its own subtle sweetness paired with the watermelon-like prickly pear makes for a wonderfully refreshing flavour you wouldn't expect to find in a pancake, and yet at the same time feels as though it should have been there all along. It's a really wonderful recipe for summer pancakes, and you can adapt your favourite pancake recipe (or dry mix - I'm guilty of frequently turning towards Flapjacked's buttermilk protein pancake mix) to work with it. I've included a basic recipe below with 10g of protein - it makes about 4 pancakes and serves one, so no waste nor temptation to overload on breakfast.


   Prickly pear can be a nuisance. It's riddled with seeds, and those seeds are big and solid. Not pleasant to chew. That said, while I'm happy to include the seeds in my porridge - in fairness, porridge takes minimal chewing - here I was a little more wary. While there are no prickly pear seeds in the pancakes, they remain in the pulp on top, though it's a totally optional detail. Instead, while I cooked and softened the entire fruit for my prickly pear & blueberry porridge, here I strained the juice out of one fruit and reserved the pulp with a sieve. If you'd rather more juice and little to no pulp, you can always put the fruit in a blender and strain the seeds out instead. It would be quicker, and you'd get all the fibre stuffed directly into the pancakes instead, but I preferred the pulp and seeds. Because I am foolish brave.
   Dragonfruit seeds, however, are no trouble at all, so you needn't worry about all those teeny, tiny little things. I used a melon baller to get the little scoops of dragonfruit. It has a very similar consistency to avocado, and you prep it the same way. It's very low in carbs (about 9g per 100g fruit) and loaded with protein, polyunsaturated fats, B-vitamins and antioxidants, so it's a really great addition to any breakfast. It's difficult to source, though - like prickly pears, you don't generally find them sitting in any old green grocer's or supermarket - but this dragonfruit was also purchased for the intention of some rather special themed porridges I've been working on, so I tracked them down from Fine Food Specialist. It's not cheap, but a dragonfruit generally weighs about 200g and across two porridges and these pancakes, I've used a little over half of the single fruit I bought. It's freezable, too - see my notes below.

Ingredients
Serves 1
1 serving dry protein pancake mix
or
30g oat flour, 10g protein powder & 1/4 tsp baking soda
40ml skimmed milk
30g dragonfruit - about 5 melonballed pieces. Reserve a few balls for decoration if desired.
1 prickly pear
Optional 10g white chocolate
Optional light cream, 25g


Method
1. Either puree/juice the prickly pear in your blender, or chop into pieces with 2 tbsp water in a pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Mash to a pulp with a fork (don't drain).

2. Set the pureed/mashed pear in a strainer over a bowl and push it around/continue to mash it to press out all of the juice. Ultimately, you're removing the seeds. Transfer the juice to a measuring jug, add 40ml milk and top up with water until you have a total of 80ml liquid (or however much your pancake mix requires).

3. Make the pancake batter. Combine the oat flour, protein powder and baking soda in a bowl and mix. Slowly add the liquid, stirring all the while.

4. Mash the dragonfruit and combine into the mix. The seeds here are fine.

5. Allow to thicken for 5 minutes, and heat a frying pan over medium-low heat, add a drop of coconut oil and then spoon in some of the batter. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip, cook for 2-3 more minutes.
   I actually prefer to bake mine (kind of removes the whole 'pan'cake thing, but there we go), so I preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180 C/350 F, line a baking sheet with paper and spoon 4 pancakes onto it, and bake on the middle shelf for 10 minutes. Longer if need be.

6. Chop your white chocolate if using and sprinkle between each pancake as you stack them. Top with dragonfruit, prickly pear pulp and cream, if desired.


Notes
• I used 1 Hotel Chocolate white chocolate baton (8g), cut first into quarters (one for each pancake) and then chopped each into pieces.
• I sourced my dragonfruit and prickly pears from Fine Foods Specialist.
How to prepare prickly pear.
How to prepare & store dragonfruit.


Nutrition
With above pancake mix recipe, no cream, no chocolate
226 cals, 3.5g fat (0.5g sat), 35.5g carbs (8.5g natural sugars), 7.5g fibre, 17g protein