Wednesday 31 January 2018

Maca, Blueberry & Banana Pancakes with Clean Salted Caramel Sauce

   Bananas. I have always hated them and so I've always avoided them and anything banana-flavoured. They are foul.
   Of course, whenever I meet my bestie for lunch at the local coffee shop - a blue moon activity - I will admit to having a slice of the banana chocolate cake (and I will also admit that, the last time I went, the words 'make it a big piece' did pass my lips). It is divine. I would never have touched it usually, but there was little other cake there, I rarely eat cake anyway, and Lucy assured me that it was worth it. She was right. And while I did taste the banana, it was subtle enough. It has now become my coffee shop staple.
   It also led me to brave a few other banana-flavoured things, but, for the most part, I prefer it in flapjack form. Both Graze's banana protein bite and Trek's Banana protein flapjacks are devoured really rather quickly.
   But even so, it's taken me a very long while to dare brave an actual banana.

   I've been trying to eat more carbs - or more in general, really - and figured that my post-workout BEAR yoyo wasn't really cutting it, and as everyone seems to have bananas, I thought I'd suck it up and trust that I'd develop a taste for it. I'm not a believer at all in acquired tastes for pointless things. I don't drink alcohol because I hate the smell, the taste and the feeling. I benefit nothing, so there's no point in drinking to acquire the taste just for the purpose of being able to drink more of it. No thanks. The same goes with coffee. Matcha, so far, has been my only exception and I flipping love the stuff now and have drank at least one generous cup a day for the past three years. How do I know it's been that long? Because Seeg has bought me increasingly expensive matcha for the past few Christmasses.
   But it looks like bananas have joined it. And thanks to the cake and flapjacks, I can stomach the taste. But I'd forgotten about the texture. That's where the challenge lies. That, and storing them.

   But it turns out, there's a dead simple way for storing bananas so that they keep longer and don't turn to mush after a few days. And that doesn't involve buying green bananas.
   First of all, I always store fruit and vegetables in the fridge. It keeps so much longer that way, and also means I can buy the short-dated fruit that others would turn their noses up at (and can often be cheaper because of it). But when it comes to bananas, there is another trick. Storing them in the fridge increased their shelf life by about two days, but, bought on Monday afternoon, they'd be pretty unpleasant by Friday. Still edible, certainly, but not enjoyable, so by that point in the week I'd blend them into my post-workout shake. A good solution, but a little more trouble than I'd like on a weekend when I'm a little more pressed for time in my mornings. So I needed a way to ensure they would keep until Monday morning.
   They say that if you keep bananas in a fruit bowl alongside other fruit, that the other fruit ripens faster. This is true, and due to a gas released by the top of the banana that begins and encourages the ripening process. Not an issue when it's still hanging on the tree, but as the stalk of the banana is actually part of the fruit's casing, unlike an apple or a berry, when it's broken at harvest, the creation of the gas begins.
   So the answer is simple. Cover the stalk.

   A small piece of clingfilm wrapped tightly around the top of the banana inhibits the escape of the gas and subsequently slows the ripening process of bananas and prevents their effect on surrounding fruit. This prevents wasted bananas without resorting to banana bread (and consuming needless calories when you eat it), and if you wrap the tops neatly, you can salvage the cling film for wrapping around the next bunch of bananas you buy, cutting down on clingfilm waste, too. It's true that the skins will still turn brown and spotty, even in the fridge, but I assure you, the insides are just as good as the day you bought them. I've been at this for a few weeks now with ready-to-eat, fully-ripened bananas, and it's not steered me wrong. Bought Monday afternoon, with the last one eaten the following Monday morning after my workout.

   But here's another use for over-ripe bananas - though I actually used one of my wrapped and refrigerated bananas that I didn't eat last week due to a migraine preventing my workout from happening. I  didn't want to push my luck by leaving it for the Wednesday, 1.5 weeks from purchase, and when the idea came to me, I was too eager to wait and let it over-ripen.

   You've heard, of course, of banana pancakes made with just banana and eggs. They're all right. But they're not fluffy enough - too moist, as you would expect. So I combined the banana with my favourite protein pancake mix - though any dry pancake mix or basic pancake recipe would work in its place - to increase the yield, get one of my five a day, and have an outright delicious breakfast.
   I was not disappointed. Especially because I added a tablespoon of maca powder, a handful of blueberries and some salted caramel sauce (spoiler alert: it's just dates). And a naughty squirt of cream. Give me a break.

For the pancakes:
Serves 1
1/2 cup dry pancake mix or your favourite single-serve pancake recipe or 1/3 cup oat flour/1/4 cup flour & 1/4 cup protein powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
10g maca powder
1/2 cup water
1 banana, peeled & chopped
50g (two handfuls) blueberries

For the salted caramel sauce:
Serves 3-4
30g pitted dates (about 6)
2 tbsp (approx 40ml) skimmed milk
water (for thinner consistency if desired)
pinch Himalayan pink sea salt

Salted Caramel Sauce:
1. Put the dates, milk and salt into a food processor/blender and puree. It may take some time.

2. Add water one teaspoon at a time, blending in between, to reach desired consistency. The more fluid added, the runnier it will be and the greater the yield. Add additional salt if desired, but use sparingly.

3. Set aside for drizzling over your pancakes (or toast, or healthy freak shake, or desserts, etc). Alternatively, store in a jar in the fridge and it will keep for 1-2 weeks.

1. Gather two bowls. In the first, mash the banana - use the whole thing, or 2/3 and reserve the rest for slicing.

2. In the second bowl, combine your chosen pancake mix, baking powder and maca (if using). Add the water and mix until fully incorporated.

3. Combine the mashed banana into the wet pancake mix, mashing and mixing.

4. Heat a frying pan or griddle and spray/brush lightly with coconut oil or preferred. Turn to low heat.

5. Spoon 1/5 of the mixture onto the pan and spread into a circle about 4 inches wide.

6. Add blueberries and sliced banana, if desired, and leave to cook for 2-3 minutes, until the edges are dry. Then flip and cook for another few minutes.

7. Repeat with the rest of the batch.

• This recipe can be used with any pancake mix, or even just a combination of flour and protein powder - or just flour alone. The banana adds all the sweetness and binds it all together. I used Flapjacked buttermilk protein pancake mix because it's my preferred pancake mix as it contains no artificial ingredients, no added sugar, and a single serving is just 200 calories and 20g protein.
• I used Natruya organic maca powder
• You can mash up the entire banana, or just mash up 2/3 and slice the remainder.
• You can add the blueberries into the mix when you spread it into the pan, or save them for garnish. Adding them into the mix guarantees a blueberry in every bite.
• The salted caramel sauce contains about 3 servings, perhaps 4 if it's made thinner. I liked it quite thick, but just add more milk or water and another blitz if you'd like it thinner.
• Store the remaining sauce in a jar and put it in the fridge. It will keep for 1-2 weeks and is brilliant for adding to desserts or over porridge.

For the pancakes (minus pancake mix):
162 cals, 40g carbs, 6.5g fibre, 2.5g protein, 1 of 5 a day
For 1/3 the salted caramel sauce:
34 cals, 9g carbs, 1g fibre, 0.5g protein

Friday 26 January 2018

Friday Favourites

This week I've been trying to cut back on sugar. I don't drink alcohol nor coffee, and I have take-aways about 4 or 5 times a year. Sugar is my only vice, and even then I gave up pure sweets over a year ago because they're mostly just sugar. Marshmallows are the only exception, and I eat them very rarely, too. We'll overlook last year's marshmallow advent calendar. It's just sugar in the form of cookies and chocolate, really, and while it's true that I prefer brands like Green & Black's, with unrefined cane sugar, and Hotel Chocolat, who use little sugar and huge amounts of cocoa (even their white chocolate is 40%), it's still an area for improvement. Though that's not to say I'm cutting it out, but to have gone four days without touching refined sugar at all is a victory for me. The trick is to have healthy snacks on hand, and I have an abundance of Graze, Bounce and Pulsin on hand, as well as lots of Propercorn popcorn to make it easier.
So, naturally, I'm crushing on healthy foods right now, and Propercorn's peanut butter and almond has been my favourite for a long while.
I also found a wonderful and sustainable UK clothing brand called Descended From Odin, and their Training for Ragnorok cropped gym tee is something I'm aspiring towards being brave enough to wear. I might have to limit it to high-waisted leggings, but I'm working on my confidence.
I've also been fighting to use heavier weights in my workouts, because I realised that, while I'm choosing the right workouts to build strength, lean muscle and lose weight, I haven't been pushing myself. I've set up camp in my comfort zone and been too afraid to opt for heavier weights in case I can't complete the set. Wrong. So I've change my outlook and decided that 2/3 of a set with heavy weights and dropping down if I need to for the rest is totally fine - and it turns out, I've not needed to drop down. I've increased the weight on nearly everything. Goes to show how 'safe' I was playing it.
If you don't challenge yourself, you get nowhere.
Also, Assassin's Creed's new DLC came out recently, moving on to 4 years after the events of Origins and Caesar's murder into the time when the Romans begin invading in earnest to try to topple Cleopatra and Marc Anthony's rule. Origins was easily mu favourite AC game, so I'm so excited to be going back into the world again!
Also also, adorable mugs.

Emoji mug, spoon & lid   ♥   Assassin's Creed The Hidden Ones DLC

Thursday 25 January 2018

Valentine Order Deadlines

The Valentine order deadlines in Myth of the Wild are coming up fast!

For UK orders, purchase no later than February 9th.
For customers outside of the UK, the deadline is January 26th - that's tomorrow!

I've also added a Valentine korok necklace to my collection, which, along with the fox couple, is only available until March 1st unless directly requested.

Friday 19 January 2018

Friday Favourites

Well, this has been such a busy week - and that in turn has become an incredibly busy year! By my standards, at least.
We booked two holidays - a trip to NL this April to see Seeg's family, and another next year to the Cotswolds for our honeymoon. We've also booked the ceremony and our registry appointment, and on top of that there's also a few other breaks when my dad takes my mum away, removing our duties as carers and giving us, at last, some freedom, as well as my gallery exhibit in the summer and my new book release around the same time! Like I said: a busy and exciting year!
I also just hit my 2000th Etsy sale in Myth of the Wild, which is also a major achievement for what started out as a means to make a little extra cash!

So it's been pretty productive, meaning down time has been at a minimum, but Seeg and I have been making the most of it, binge-watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is amazing except that the episodes that focus on the clones themselves make me sad, knowing they're all going to betray the Jedi. I'm pro-Sith, but it's difficult to forgive them when you grow attached to characters!
Since the start of this month I've also been pushing harder in my workouts, using heavier weights and moving out of my comfort zone, which I hadn't really realised I'd set up camp within some time ago, and I feel incredibly strong and positive about myself and my body now! Even though it's too soon to see results from it on the outside. I just wish this Lilo and Stitch tank was available in anything less than a Large :(
Also, heat-changing Zelda mug Seeg got me for my birthday. Endless entertainment.

Blueberries   ♥   Legend of Zelda heat change mug

Sunday 14 January 2018

Writing, Birthday, Killer Body & Canvas Cake

      2018 has had a very busy start. I've spent the last two weeks catching up with a backlog of Christmas and New Year orders, which I'm very pleased to say I've now completed, and putting animals for this year's gallery exhibit together in their jars. I've got 30 odd to go, which is going to take some time, and I've still got about 10-15 animals still to make. Mostly birds, I think, but I've also decided to sneak in some forest spirits! One or two in each plinth, hidden amongst 15 other creatures (45 creatures filling 3 plinths, and then duplicates in another three plinths set up on the opposite side of the room). I'm quite excited about that little detail, actually - they won't sell, but they're beyond my quota, and as every unsold piece will be listed in my Etsy shop when I get it all back in September, I'm confident that they're worth making.

   But it's taken until now to finally find the time to start work on my book again. I submitted the first of this trilogy to agents on January 1st, and I'd hoped to have resumed work on the second by the 7th, but it wasn't until last night, the 13th, that I'd managed. The bright side is that it was easy to ease back in - I'd done some writing on paper on the week before Christmas when I closed up shop, so I had very precise notes to work from and I did a pretty good job, but even before that I reread what I'd done so far and I have to say I was surprised by how well-written it was. Hey, if I don't toot my own horn, who will?!
   Well yesterday I looked over all the notes, polished them and typed them into something readable, which led me to finish the chapter and switch perspective where I can finally get creative again. Yay!

   And, of course, amongst all this has been my birthday! Seeg and I went to dinner and to see the new Star Wars film on the 5th (I'm not getting into it - it was a good movie to watch, but it was filled with holes), and it was a wonderful evening - not to mention that it was the first time I'd been confident enough to step out of the house in a dress since I was 16 years old, and a size 16 to boot, and even that was an obligation. Prior to that one-off, I hadn't done it since I was 9. The difference is, now I'm 27 and a size 8. Hello.
  Aside from the worst PMS I've experienced for a few years, I had a very enjoyable birthday. I made a delicious duck, sausage and oat cassoulet from a recipe in Women's Fitness that I'd been keeping for something special, and damn it was worth it, which was followed of course by a praline ice cream log. I got some wonderful gifts, as outlined below, as well as a few belated ones (my birthday can sometimes still be affected by the Christmas postal back-log and crazy people clogging up the shops in the new year sales), though I admit that the best two are the Mr Bean box set and the Jawa plush. I freaking love those little guys! And he talks! Utinni!! I also admit that those Champion leggings from Wild Bangarang were a gift from me to me...
   Seeg's birthday prior to mine was also great, with a delicious Domino's Pizza (Meateor is the best!), and we have since been watching Star Wars The Clone Wars series and it's actually great. It's canon, too! We're half way through season 2 and loving it.

   I've also decided to prolong Killer Body. While my new year's resolution is to recognise when I need to take a break from my writing, I also think I need to adjust my workout habits. Instead of changing my workout every month, I'm going to look into giving bigger workouts a greater chance since they give me the best challenge and subsequently the most room to grow and my body the best chance at change. So I'm sticking with Killer Body for another 3 weeks, until the end of January, which gives it a total of 2 months, 9 weeks. Somehow, despite having been at it for 6 weeks now, I'm not at all sick of it.
   That said, I'm still going to swap down to a low-impact workout every few months, because my resolution in 2017 was on to something, but those I will keep to just 1 month or perhaps even just 3 weeks.

   And while we're on the subject of health, here's another canvas cake I made for my birthday - though I admit it was premature, as I actually had blueberry and white chocolate pancakes for breakfast on my birthday! It also looks more like it was made for spring than birthday, but I didn't want to use sprinkles because I am so sick of the sight of sprinkles on birthday cakes. It's boring! So I opted for Popaballs and matcha chocolate instead. Though I guess it tasted more spring/summer too, since the cake was lychee. And it was yum.

   I used the original canvas cake recipe, but removed the Stevia and replaced 50ml of the 80ml of water with Funkin lychee puree. I dusted the cake with Sugarflair silky peach lustre dust, topped it with my usual Yeo Valley 0% fat honey greek yogurt, then decorated with 5g of Purechimp matcha white chocolate shavings, 12 shimmer Popaballs in passionfruit and cherry, a squirt of light Anchor cream and 2 mini marshmallows. And then some little flags I made out of tooth picks and washi tape.

Birthday Cake Mug Cake:
295 calories, 8.8g fat, 26.5g carbs, 5g fibre, 27g protein
Cake + 50ml Funkin lychee puree: 180 calories, 2.8g fat, 13.5g carbs, 5g fibre, 22g protein
50g Yogurt: 50 calories, 0g fat, 7g carbs, 4g protein
  - 2 mini marshmallows: 4 calories, 1.5g carbs (0.9g sugar)
  - 7g Popaballs (approx 12 balls): 7 cals, 1.5g carbs (1g sugar)
  - 5g Purechimp matcha white chocolate*: 30 calories, 3g fat, 2g carbs, 0.5g protein
  - 12g Anchor light whipped cream: 24 calories, 2g fat (1.5g sat), 1g carbs (1g sugar), 0.5g protein

*The measurements listed for the matcha chocolate were what I intended to use, but after chopping up 5g of chocolate I only actually used half of it. I've kept the measurements in place, though, so if you want to use the lot, go for it. I did, after photographing. More whipped cream may also have slipped in.

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Killer Body - 4 Weeks Later

   I will admit it: I gained weight this Christmas. And I will also admit this: I broke nearly all of my rules and more than merely 'strayed' from my fool-proof Christmas plan. The bright side is that I learned a few years ago that weight recently gained is very easily lost. Every holiday I go on, I gain weight, and I always lose it within 2 weeks - sometimes only 1 - with a suitable workout and mindful eating. So I also know that, by upping the ante, I can shed the lot in the next two weeks.

   While I did do Killer Body every day, and increased the frequency on the week before and after Christmas, I did gain a little. I grazed and picked at food, but if there are 4 boxes of pepernoten within grabbing range, what can you do? Willpower doesn't pop up in my vocabulary so much around Christmas, and I maintain that that isn't a bad thing - as long as it does still pop up.
   Now, though, new year, new motivation. I have 2 weeks of Killer Body left, and I'm tacking more on to the end of it. Kettlebells and kickboxing are two of the most effective fat-burning workouts you can possibly do, and while Jillian Michaels' circuit training is madly effective enough, by adding an extra 10-20 minutes of one of those two forms afterwards, I am smoking calories, increasing burn and resting metabolism. It's difficult, though, so I don't intend to keep this up long-term. At the very least, this first week. At best, next week too.

   Eating is also an issue, but while I bought lots of healthy snacks at the start of December, it seems I've barely touched them. So I have more than enough goodness to eat without going hungry, and while I still have plenty of chocolate left, out of sight, out of mind.
   I'm not going cold-turkey, though. I'm keeping an advent calendar-esque build to my day until it's all gone - ie, one or two chocolates a day. It's not off-limits, therefore I will be less likely to crave, break and binge, and it gives me something to look forward to if I keep putting it off throughout the day.

   I will also state, for the record, that I am going low-carb for the duration of this week. Yes, this was my problem last year and it's taken me a long time to get over it and stop villainising carbs and start eating them again, and I have felt immensely better because of it, but given how I've eaten over the past week and a half, maybe even two weeks, I know that I can stand to back off of carbs with no ill effects and use what my body has stored. The trick will be getting back to normal after the week is up, and that will test my willpower and, frankly, intelligence.

   The workout has been surprising fun, though, and while I'm usually hanging after 4 weeks and ready to turn away and on to something else, I'm actually still keen for Killer Body. Perhaps it's because I know it will work and I have to get the Christmas weight off, or perhaps all the food I've eaten over Christmas has energised me and I have the power to do it and do it well. Or I'm simply having fun. I admit that last week I was coming at these workouts like a beast and I've been obliterating them, and I did the same yesterday - which I followed with a 20 minute Kettlercise workout, hello - and felt amazing at the end. I could have gone on! I didn't, though, because I am still at risk of migraines - how I survived Christmas without one I have no idea, unless food levels also have something to do with triggering them...

   Two more weeks, then I'm using a workout DVD I got for Christmas - in theory, it's lower-impact, so I'm viewing Killer Body now with the mind that I'll get the chance to get my breath back for 3 weeks afterwards, so I may as well go all or nothing. I'm a little daunted by it, though, because I've used the brand before and it hurts, but also because there's one unique new element to it that will either be great fun and really effective, or a huge disappointment. But I guess I'll find out in two weeks.

   I'll report back in two weeks with, hopefully, good news that all Christmas weight has gone and that carbs and I are friends again. I'm also going to do my best to get a DVD review for Killer Body up at last.