Thursday, 26 July 2018

Elwynn Forest Porridge - Warcraft, Battle For Azeroth

   Elwynn Forest. Trees, apples, sheep. The picture of wonderful familiarity. Home to humans and the capital city of the Alliance, Stormwind. Despite near-constant war and the losses and hardship that come with it, the denizens thrive in their day to day, keeping their farms, their taverns, their businesses both in and outside of the great city.
   I have never found humans appealing. Especially in games. If I'm playing a fantasy game, why would I want to play a human? The closest I've come is a worgen, but that didn't last. I admit, I am pro-Horde, always have been, always will be (though I don't personally condone Sylvanas's actions in Arathi), but while I do play a few Alliance characters ('few' meaning two night elves - whose porridge is linked below), humans have never been one of them. This might change, though, with the new Kul Tiran druids...

   This porridge, however, was one of my favourites to make. I love apple crumble, so an apple crumble porridge was such an obvious step. And with Elwynn's orchards, it was a no-brainer. This porridge embodies homeliness, comfort and the simplest of pleasures. It's not sugar-free - caramelised oats, by their very nature, involve added sugar - but it's so worth it, and the oats can be stored in an air-tight jar for a few months. I know. I made this porridge a month ago and I still have a small jar brimming with perfectly crispy crunchy oats. They're great to add to any porridge, or indeed ice cream and dessert, or as a cheeky sweetness to homemade granola.
   I have, however, provided nutritional info at the foot of the post without the crumble topping, for those who would rather opt out (madness), and the nutritional info for one 15g serving of the topping by itself beneath it.


See also: Tirisfal Glades  ♥  Teldrassil  ♥  Muglore  ♥  Khaz Modan
Stranglethorn Vale  ♥  Dun Morogh  ♥  Durotar

#BreakfastOfChampions

Ingredients
Serves 1
Porridge
30g oats
Pinch of cinnamon
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
Optional 20g whey protein
1 apple
Caramelised Oat Crumble Topping
Makes 90g; 6x 15g servings
40g rolled oats
40g brown sugar
30g butter/margarine


Method
Caramelised Oat Crumble Topping
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F/160 C/Gas mark 3 and line a baking sheet with parchment/grease proof paper.

2. Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring to the boil, then allow to boil for about 1 more minute, stirring continuously.

3. Remove from the heat and pour in the oats, stirring to thoroughly coat.

4. Spread over the prepared baking sheet and flatten out - use a spatula, back of a spoon, etc.

5. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove, break the oats apart, then bake for another 6 minutes, careful not to let them burn.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then transfer to an airtight container.

Porridge
Overnight Oats
1. Combine the oats, cinnamon and whey in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, slowly add the milk and mix until combined (or shake the bottle and transfer to a bowl).

2. Set in the fridge overnight.

3. To heat the following morning, add 50ml water and microwave for 1 minute.

4. Stir in the apple pieces (see below).

5. Heat again for 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between, until desired consistency is reached. Garnish with the apple peel, if reserved, and 15g of the caramelised oats.

Apple
1. Peel, core and chop an apple, reserving skin for topping if desired.

2. Set in a saucepan with 2 tbsp water and heat over medium-low for 10-15 minutes. You can then either mash with a fork for a rough puree, leave as softened chunks, or do a little bit of both. Set aside.

Oats on the Hob
3. Boil 100ml water in a kettle.

4. Combine the oats, cinnamon and whey in the same saucepan, then, stirring all the while, add the milk, then the boiled water, and heat over medium, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes until desired consistency is reached.

5. Transfer to a bowl, garnish with apple peel, if reserved, and 15g caramelised oats.


Notes
• I used Stork 70% vegetable spread instead of butter, which cut off 6 calories, 1.3g fat and 0.9g sat fat from a 15g serving (36 cals, 7.8g fat, 5.4g sat fat from the full yield).
• I stored the remaining caramelised oats in an airtight jar. They can be used on ice cream, porridge, added to cereal, with fruit, and so on.


Nutrition
For the porridge, without whey, without oat topping (see below)
210 cals, 2.4g fat (0.5g sat), 38g carbs (17.5g natural sugars), 5g fibre, 6.5g protein, 1 of 5 a day
With whey, add:
80 cals, 0.6g carbs, 18.6g protein 
For 15g of the caramelised oats, made with butter
88 cals, 4.5g fat (3g sat), 10.5g carbs (6.5g sugar), 0.5g fibre, 0.5g protein




Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Zi'veyn - The Devoted Trilogy, Book One


Available on all regional Amazon stores
Kindle Unlimited  •  Kindle  •  Paperback



https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FSQLYRZ
   Magic is formed in the heart - specifically, in a fifth chamber tucked between the left ventricle and aorta. Like blood, it cannot form outside of a living body, and so the existence of magic loose in the world, raw and unshaped, is an absolute impossibility.
   And so, when magic is discovered, raw and unshaped, loose in the forests of Turunda and tearing the land to shreds, the Order of Mages is accused of sabotage during an already tumultuous time.

   With the Order under close scrutiny and wars raging all around them, only Rathen Koraaz, a banished warmage and deceased by all official records, has the time and the expertise to handle it before the world collapses beneath itself. With the help of a renowned historian and an inquisitor of the Hall of the White Hammer, they set out on a search for answers and solutions, until desperation leads them to chase the legends of an extinct people and the original users of magic.

   Harbouring secrets of faith, magic and vengeance, the group flee harpy attacks in the wilds, riots in the cities, and the eternal hunt of imperial assassins.
   But is there any truth to the legend? And, if not, how far will their world crumble before they can find an alternative?






Downloading The Kindle App

   You can read Kindle books without a Kindle device using Amazon's free Kindle app. It can be downloaded onto smart phones, tablets, laptops, Mac and PCs, and is supported by android, apple, google play and windows.
   Download it for free straight from Amazon right here.

   The download is small, quick, and safe as it comes directly from Amazon, not a third party.


For Inktober 2018, I used The Zi'veyn for drawing prompts.



Monday, 23 July 2018

Durotar Porridge - Warcraft, Battle For Azeroth

   Durotar. Dry, dusty, inhospitable; what little water there is dragged tragedy behind it. Beasts are scarce, and they are vicious. Plants equally so. Only the strong survive. Even gathering fruit is a hazard.
   But the orcs who make it their home are hardy and stubborn, and they have cut a life for themselves from the bare rock, building the great city of Orgrimmar, capital of the Horde whose origin lies in their own tumultuous past.

   This Durotar porridge draws directly upon the resources most easily gathered - but this fruit bites back. Prickly pears, cactus fruit, grows within their city, and has a high water and nutritional content. It's a shocking, almost bloody magenta, and is covered in spines and sharp hairs. But, once de-pricked and the hairs are scrubbed away, the peeled fruit has a delicious watermelon flavour. But the seeds are very, very hard. They are edible, but caution is advised - not that that's a problem for orc teeth and jaws. But as far as the rest of us go, it's easy enough to puree or boil the fruit and strain the seeds out.



See also: Tirisfal Glades  ♥  Teldrassil  ♥  Muglore  ♥  Khaz Modan  ♥  Stranglethorn Vale  ♥  Dun Morogh

#BreakfastOfChampions

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g rolled oats (or preferred)
100ml water
100ml skimmed milk
2 prickly pears
Optional 20g whey protein


Method
1. Slice the ends off of the pears and make a cut down the length into the fruit to break through the skin. Peel it away and discard.

2. Cut the fruit into chunks and set in a saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 5-7 minutes and mash with a fork. Do not drain.

Overnight Oats
3. Combine oats and whey in a bowl (or shaker bottle). Stirring all the while, slowly add the milk until combined (or shake in the bottle and transfer to a bowl).

4. Add the fruit and liquid to the bowl and mix to combine. Set in the fridge overnight.

5. The following morning, if desired, add 50ml water and heat in the microwave on max power for 1 minute, stir, then microwave again for 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between, until desired consistency.

Oats On The Hob
3. Combine the oats and whey in the pan with the warmed fruit. Slowly, stirring all the while, add the milk, then the water, and combine all together.

4. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes until desired consistency is reached.

5. Transfer to a bowl and serve.


Notes
• I got my prickly pears from Fine Foods Specialist. It's not cheap, which is why I've been sourcing alternatives to the fruit, but if you want the real thing, this is the only way. However, you do get 10 fruits, which can make lots of things.
• I used Pulsin premium whey.
• A page detailing the preparation of prickly pears.


Nutrition
Without 20g whey
230 calories, 3.5g fat (0.5g sat), 43g carbs (7.5g natural sugars), 11g fibre, 9g protein, 1.5 of 5 a day
With whey, add: 80 cals, 0.6g carbs, 18.6g protein





Thursday, 19 July 2018

Dun Morogh Porridge - Warcraft, Battle For Azeroth

   Dun Morogh. A land of snow and alpine mountains, thick with the scent of pine resin and smoke from the Great Forge. A home to beer, smithing dwarves and tinkering gnomes. Cold, but filled with glowing hospitality.
   I've always been more a fan of mountains than beaches; give me autumn and winter over summer any day. And the dwarves are one of the only two Alliance races that appeal to me. The other are the night elves.
   That said, I've already addressed the dwarves. I worked on the dwarven porridge last week - a beer porridge, inspired by their love for malted barley and based upon the Danish beer-rye recipe of Øllebrød. But that just doesn't suit the gnomes.
   It's true that I'm basing these recipes around the locations, not the races - the culture is kept for the most part to what's scattered around the bowls - but gnomes and dwarves are still different enough to warrant their own pieces, and as I'd given the orcs and trolls their own, it was only fair. And while I think I'm on the same page as Gigz when it comes to gnomish recipes, I don't think everyone else is. So, while last week saw a Khaz Modan porridge, covering a good third of the continent rather than one zone, this one focuses upon Dun Morogh itself, the territory shared by both and home to the capital city of Ironforge, but with a focus upon the gnomes.
   Always rushing around and tinkering about, I figure they don't have the time or the care for anything too fancy, so the thin resources of the snow-capped mountains seem to suit them just fine. The porridge is more traditional, creamy and smooth, and its flavour comes from the redcurrants and bilberries on top instead. I've added honey to the list for a little boost of sweetness, should you want it, just be sure to stir it in afterwards.


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

#BreakfastOfChampions

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g oats
Optional 20g whey protein
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
handful/25g of bilberries (or blueberries)
handful/25g of redcurrants
Optional honey to taste (or sweetener of choice)


Method
Overnight Oats
1. Combine the oats and whey in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, slowly add the milk and mix thoroughly (or shake together and transfer to a bowl). Ignore the water.

2. Set in the fridge overnight and, if desired, reheat the following morning by stirring in 50ml water and heating on the hob or microwave - 1 minute at full power, stir, then 20-30 second bursts until desired consistency. Add more water if necessary.

3. Add honey if desired, and more water if needed, then top with bilberries (or blueberries) and redcurrants.

Oats on the Hob
1. Bring 100ml water to a boil.

2. Combine the oats and whey in a pan and add the milk slowly, stirring all the while, then add the water and bring the mix to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

3. Reduce to a simmer and allow to thicken for 15-20 minutes, then transfer to a bowl.

4. Add honey if desired, and top with bilberries and redcurrants.


Notes
• I used Pulsin Premium Whey


Nutrition
Without whey or honey
178 cals, 2.5g fat (0.5g sat), 29g carbs (9.5g natural sugars), 4.5g fibre, 7g protein
For whey, add:
80 cals, 0.6g carbs, 18.6g protein




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. Heat the next morning, if desired, 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.
   Then there's the added fact that, even if you tried to bypass that and go for gold before midday, the alcohol would evaporate anyway.
   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. Stir (or shake) until thoroughly mixed (and transfer to a bowl or jar). (Ignore the water)

3. Mix in the sweet potato.

4. Set in the fridge overnight.

5. If desired, heat the following morning by stirring in 50ml water and microwave for 1 minute the next morning, then 30 second bursts until satisfied with the texture. Add more water if needed. 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 (or shake in a shaker bottle and transfer to a bowl). Ignore the water in the recipe.

3. Set in the fridge overnight.

4. Heat the following morning, if desired, by adding 50ml water and heating in the microwave for 1 minute on full power, mix, then microwave for 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between, until desired consistency is reached. Add more water if necessary.

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 and mix until combined (or shake and transfer to a bowl). Omit the water.

2. Add blueberries and set in the fridge overnight.

3. If you'd like it warm the next morning, stir in 50ml water and heat in the microwave for 1 minute, then stir, and 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