Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Fit Festival, Edinburgh

On Sunday, the hubby-to-be and I jumped on a train and headed down to Edinburgh for the The Fit Festival, after I had won a pair of tickets on Facebook.

I love Edinburgh, there's something about the city that just makes me smile, so I'm always happy to have a reason to visit, especially when it involves talking about healthy living, and nibbling on some tasty snacks.

The event was held over the weekend in the gorgeous Assembly Rooms, which I had never been in before.

This was Edinburgh’s first health and fitness exhibition and I was excited to see what it had to offer. What I really enjoyed about the festival was that there was a focus on overall health with stallholders ranging from healthy snack providers to chiropractors and massage therapists to gyms and yoga instructors. There was no one pushing 'Do this in 30 days and you'll lose 30 lbs' diets. There was a spotlight on being healthy in all aspects of your life. Something I try and live by.

Wandering around, nibbling on samples of this and trying shots of that, I was really impressed at the number of different companies and businesses showcasing at the Assembly Rooms. 

After talking to a few companies, it was lunchtime and I was feeling myself flagging, and although I wasn't super hungry I listened to my body, so J and I grabbed a couple of smoothies made of freshly pressed apple and pineapple juice, mango, banana and strawberries. They were delish and mine pepped me up perfectly. 

After sufficiently filling up on smoothie goodness, there was more wandering around the stalls, more talking to people and of course, more nibbling.

We were introduced to lots of new products and one that stood out was some raw chocolate from Decadently Pure. The salted caramel pecan was so decadent and divine it didn't taste healthy at all. Clearly everyone else thought that as well because by the time we'd got to the stall they'd sold all out of the SCP. Cue sad face. But I did make some hints to James about Christmas presents, which I think he took on board. Score!

James wanted to check out a company called Healthy Nibbles, so he could get some ideas for snacks to take to work. Healthy Nibbles, which has only been going for four months, send out boxes of snacks to you in the post. What I really liked about the company is there are no subscription fees, if you want a box you can buy one, if you don't then you don't have to and they can be tailor made to your needs and tastes. They were offering a box half price and with most of the products being wheat and dairy-free, J and I decided to buy a box to share.

There was lots of taste testing at the HN stall and I fell in love with a peanut bar from Meridian, who make my favourite nut butters. Healthy Nibbles only had the almond ones left for sale and as I love Meridian's almond butter I thought I'd give it a whirl. I actually preferred the peanut bar, but both will happily be added to my list of on-the-go snacks for work.

As well as the stalls, there were fitness classes from yoga to zumba and masterclasses, and James and I listened in on a talk by Burn It Fitness about balance and setting goals. We came away with some really good advice, the main one being that you don't always have to centre on the end goal, you can set yourself mini goals along the way. The speaker gave us the task of setting ourselves a few small goals, which could be as simple as drinking more water everyday, that we can strive towards before Christmas.

I have been focusing too much on getting back to where I was before my eczema broke out and before I got ill and ended up in bed for a few weeks. I keep thinking about how my fitness levels were then and how I want to get back there, but I know it going to take some time. So by setting myself small goals that I can achieve will help me work towards long term goal, which is to feel more physically fit and healthy again.

Another thing that the speaker addresses was that to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle it is okay and actually realistic to have a little bit of what you want every now and again. I totally agree with this. If most of the time I'm eating well, drinking smoothies and eating my kale and quinoa, then the rest can be made up of slutty brownies, a glass of wine here and there and a portion of chunky chips/fries.

I really enjoyed The Fit Festival and I hope it becomes an annual event.

After the exhibition, James and I ended the day with a lovely meal in a nice little pub. This was me implementing the balance in my life. I ordered the grilled salmon with salad and sauteed potatoes (in oil not butter as I'm still eating dairy-free). The salmon was tender and the potatoes, oh my gosh they were so good. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Perfect. The meal was delicious and I didn't feel guilty one bit for eating it.

Did you go to The Fit Festival?

Have you been to a health and fitness festival?

How do you introduce balance into your life?

Do you set yourself goals?

Friday, 10 October 2014

12 Healthy Pumpkin and Oat Recipes

Curling up on the sofa in my fluffy dressing gown and big slippers with a bowl of pumpkin oats and steaming mug of coffee is my idea of a perfect Autumn morning.

Remember last week when I said we were having a heat wave in the UK? I may or may not, along with many other journalists, have jinked things. The heat wave has gone on holiday to another country. It's been rainy and windy and I'd like to hibernate under my duvet please.

We've actually put the heating on this week for the first time since last winter. As I write this I'm wearing a chunky cardi, my flurry slipper booties and a scarf (although that may be because I haven't taken it off since I got in from work).

Brr, it is cold in here, there must be some pumpkin in the atmosphere!

12 Healthy Pumpkin and Oat Recipes | The Road to Less Cake | #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

I'm a total Pinterest addict these days, there was a time when I had it but didn't know how to use it, but now I can't seem to help pinning ideas for my wedding and yummy, good for you recipes every day.

So thanks to Pinterest, today I'm comin' atcha with 12 delicious and healthy pumpkin and oat recipes from across the blogosphere. Thank you to the bloggers for coming up with their delicious and nutritious recipes and for letting them use them today. And I may have shamelessly included one or two of my own recipes.

Pumpkin Boatmeal for One from Chocolate Covered Katie

Pumpkin Boatmeal For One #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

When your breakfast can look like dessert who wouldn't want that? And its for one person, so you don't have to share.

Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola by Minimalist Baker

Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

Crunchy homemade granola that tastes like maple and pumpkin? Yes please. I want to sprinkle this on yoghurt, top smoothies with it or just grab a couple of handfuls and faceplant because it looks so nommy.

Chocolate Pumpkin Oatmeal from The Road to Less Cake

Chocolate Pumpkin Oatmeal #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

I've already made this two or three times this year already. Chocolate, pumpkin and maple syrup are just so delish together in a bowl. If you don't want to add chocolate to your oats why not try a bowl of pumpkin pie porridge?

Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Bake from Running With Spoons

Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Bakel #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

A thick, doughy, cakey bake that can be eaten for breakfast? Oh yes. If you don't want to add pumpkin puree to your oatmeal but still want the pumpkie pie flavour, then this one is for you.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Overnight Oats #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

I love my oats hot but working I often need want an extra half an hour in bed in the morning but still want all the pumpie-oat-goodness, chocolate chip cookie overnight oats look like the solution to my can't-get-out-my-snuggly-bed-on-a-morning-problem.

Healthy Oatmeal Pumpkin Pancakes from Overtime Cook

Healthy Oatmeal Pumpkin Pancakes Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Overnight Oats #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

Just looking at this photo makes me hungry. The only thing that can make a Fall morning better than a bowl of oats, is a stack of pancakes

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from Sally's Baking Addiction

Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies  #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

Pumpkin and oats aren't just for breakfast. Give me one of these with a cup of tea and I feel some dunking coming on.
Oatmeal Pumpkin Bars from Clean Green Simple

Oatmeal Pumpkin Bars #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

I could find a place in my belly for some chewy pumpkin bars with they fudgy, gooey, deliciousness. If you want your fudgy pumpkin fix with some chocolate, check out these brownies.

Wholewheat Pumpkin Oat Muffins from Kitchen Treaty

Wholewheat Pumpkin Oat Muffins #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

Big, fat pumpkin muffins - enough said!

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins from Hungry Healthy Girl

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

Tasty little baked oatmeal muffins that can be eaten on the run, after a run, during a run. Perfect for commuters and workers who want a yummy, healthy breakfast on-the-go.

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Shake from Oh My Veggies

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Shake #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

This is the kind of smoothie/shake I want to sip on of a morning or afternoon at this time of year.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Anytime Squares from Oh She Glows.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Anytime Squares #pumpkin #oats #oatmeal #Fall #Autumn

It is almost as if Angela knew I was putting this round-up together when she posted this recipe this week. And I would eat these anytime. Like now.

What are your favourite pumpkin and oat recipes?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Goat's Cheese and Red Onion Cornbread

I'm a bit of a grazer when it comes to eating. I generally prefer to eat little and often rather than three square meals a day. I know some people swear by just three set meals, while others eat two or three meals and a couple of snacks. I just tend to play it be ear (or should I say stomach rumbles) on the day.

When I was a little girl my mum used to say to me 'little pickers wear big knickers', but I've learnt that if I go a few hours without eating, then I will get a headache and that can often turn into a migraine. Eating something every few hours, even if it is just a piece of fruit or a hand full of nuts, can often stop me getting a headache. And I haven't had to resort to wearing my Bridget Jones pants, yet.

Crumbly and cheesy goat's cheese and red onion cornbread. A tasty side for any Fall dish | from The Road to Less Cake | #Fall #Autumn #Cornbread #Glutenfree #GoatsCheese

Recently, instead of a 'proper' lunch, I've been really loving snack plates. Lately, I've found myself wandering into the kitchen when I'm hungry for lunch, but not finding anything I've wanted to make or fancied. Open cupboards. Close cupboards. Open fridge. Close fridge. Open and close cupboards again. Open fridge once more to check. Gah! Nothing to eat! When in fact I know there's plenty in the house. It's like when you look in your wardrobe and you have plenty of good outfits but still you have nothing to wear.

I think it is still a small laying over symptom of when I got sick that my appetite is a bit off or fussy some days. Most of the time I've ended up making a snack plate, usually made up of something like a bit of salad, carrot sticks, pepper sticks, apple slices, rice or oatcakes, some hummus or maybe a dollop of nut butter.

And a slice of cornbread goes great on the side of the plate.

So, Autumn is here. I have mixed feelings about the colder months coming around again. I always do. I love the flavours and foods of Fall - the apples, the pumpkins, the mugs of hot chocolate and the big bowls of steaming oatmeal (you know me, I love my bowls of oats), I even love the fashion at this time of year, especially chunky knits. I have a thing for knitwear. I love trying knitted items on and stocking up on new jumpers every year. The only thing is, I don't like having to wear it.

Having just got back from my summer holiday in Rhodes, I've still been hanging onto some of summer eats. And we're actually having what they're calling 'mini heatwave' in the UK at the moment, meaning I've not donned on my fluffy bed-socks yet and am still sipping on a smoothie for breakfast. Yet I can't help thinking that I should be giving up my salads and smoothies in favour of bowls of soup and pumpkin spice lattes.

Crumbly and cheesy goat's cheese and red onion cornbread. A tasty side for any Fall dish | from The Road to Less Cake | #Fall #Autumn #Cornbread #Glutenfree #GoatsCheese

Despite the rise in temperature, Fall has made its way into my kitchen. And although I've not gone all out pumpkin just yet, this cornbread is the perfect side dish for this time of year.

This was the first time I've made cornbread. And oh my. So goooood! Why have I waited this long? So crumbly and soft and yummy. After investing in some cornmeal, I knew I wanted to make some cornbread, and I could have been plain Jane and just made plain cornbread, but where is the fun in that? Let's get some flavour in there! And some cheese. Cheese is good. Cheese is always good.

I may not be able to eat moo cow cheese right now while my eczema is healing, but I can eat goat's cheese, and that makes me a happy girl. Give me the choice between mozzarella or creamy goat's cheese on pizza, I'll pick the later every time.

So pass me some delicious mild hard goat's cheese and a big fat red onion and let's make some magic, tasty magic.

Sometimes I've been known to go to the supermarket and instead of a regular loaf of bread, I've picked up a fancy pants flavoured one, like sundried tomato or olive. But often they skimp on the best bit and you get three olives in the whole loaf. Well, seeing as though I can't eat wheat at the moment either I wanted to give my cornbread some gusto. Every bite you take has a chunk of flavourful red onion.

While the weather may be warmer than it usually is for this time of the year and in my daydreams I may still be in Greece, my tummy is loving cheesy crumbly cornbread.

Goat's Cheese and Red Onion Cornbread
Crumbly and cheesy goat's cheese and red onion cornbread. A tasty side for any Fall dish | from The Road to Less Cake | #Fall #Autumn #Cornbread #Glutenfree #GoatsCheese
by Nikki Mitchell
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 - 35 mins
Keywords: bake bread dinner lunch side snack diary-free gluten-free low-sodium soy-free vegetarian wheat-free corn cornmeal goat's cheese red onion
Ingredients (6 - 9 Slices)
  • 1 cup yellow cormeal
  • 3/4 cup wholegrain flour of choice (wholeweat/spelt/buckwheat flour - for GF use buckwheat) [I used buckwheat]
  • 100g hard goat's cheese, grated
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornbread, flour, garlic, salt, pepper and baking powder. Make a well in the middle, add the wet ingredients and mix everything together.
  • Line a rectangular baking dish (alternatively, you could also make this cornbread into a loaf and use a loaf tin) with baking parchment - I find cutting two rectangular strips that fit inside the fish, placing one horizontally and one vertically so they just come above the sides of the dishes, stops you getting funny shaped corners at the edges.
  • Spoon two to three spoonfuls of the batter into the dish to stop the baking parchment moving, then pour the rest of the mixture into the dish.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden in colour and a knife comes out clean.
  • Once baked, allow the cornbread to cool in the dish for 10 to 15 minutes.Then turn it out on to a wire rack. Once the cornbread is cool cut into six bigger or nine smaller slices. If you cut the bread while it is still warm it may break and you may not get clean slices.
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How do you prefer to eat your meals? Three square ones or little and often?

What's the weather like where you are?

Do you love Autumn or are you missing summer already?

Friday, 26 September 2014

Holiday in Rhodes Highlights

You guys, I am still day dreaming about the sun, the sea, the pool, the endless hours reading and spending quality time with the hubs-to-be. We had an amazing holiday. It was only the second time we'd been abroad together in seven years and it was definitely needed.

It wasn't an adventure or action packed vacation, it was a restful one, which is what I needed after being so ill before we went away. I feel we had a good mix of doing things and relaxing. My energy levels were up a little when we went away but I was still more tired than usual, so lying on the beach or by the pool with a good novel, diving into the water every now and again for a swim and a cool down, was perfect. I am quite a girly girl, I like shoe and clothes shopping, I love dressing up and watching rom-coms, but for books nothing beats a gritty crime novel for me, and I lost myself in a couple in Rhodes.

St Paul's Bay, Lindos

We stayed in Faliraki, which can be known for it's party atmosphere, but that's not why we went there. It is near the stunning Rhodes Town, has lots of restaurants, cocktail bars, clear waters and a gorgeous beach. And our hotel had its own water park. Yep. You heard read me right. So. Much. Fun.

As we went in September it wasn't crazy busy with party-goers. There were families and lots of couples. We could sit by the shore, soaking up the sun by day and relax with a cocktail (or two) in a nice bar by night.

Today's post is a bit of a photo dump and it has taken me forever to edit and pick my favourite photos because I always take too many. I have finally picked my favourites and am sharing five highlights from our trip.

We actually had a bit of a disaster with the camera and nearly lost most of our pictures. After a day at the beach the camera deleted all our photos that we had taken in Rhodes. We were gutted. When I got home I Googled a way to get them back and after downloading a card recovery program we got most of the photos back. Yay!

1. The Beach

Give me a beach, a book and a pair of sunnies and I am good to go!

Faliraki Beach is a beautiful Blue Flag beach. The water was so clear we could sea little fish swimming around our toes in the shallow water.

Faliraki Beach
Faliraki Beach
Faliraki Beach
Faliraki Beach

2. Tale of 2 1/2 Cities Trip

After a few days of rest and relaxation we wanted to see some of the culture that Rhodes had to offer. We booked a trip and firstly headed to the quaint town of Lindos with its white houses, winding streets that you could lose yourself for hours in and tiny shops the size of a cupboard.

Our tour guide gave us the option of wandering around Lindos or getting our legs working at 8 o'clock in the morning by taking a walk up the 300 steps to the to the town's Acropolis, which we really wanted to see. There was another way to the top, the Lindos taxi. This is a four-legged-two-eared mode of transport that goes eeyore. We decided to give the donkeys a break and braved the walk. Exercise for the day - tick!

The views from the top of Lindos Acropolis were just breathtaking.

Lindos, Rhodes
Lindos Beach, Rhodes

Lindos Acropolis
Lindos Acropolis
Lindos Acropolis
Lindos Acropolis
St Paul's Bay, Lindos
Temple of Athena, Lindos Acropolis
Temple of Athena, Lindos Acropolis
Temple of Athena, Lindos Acropolis
Lindos Acropolis

Leaving Lindos we headed to the impressive Rhodes Old Town, but not before we first stopped off at an olive factory to taste some local oil. Why does olive oil in the Med countries taste so much better? We tried a few varieties and picked up a bottle of flavourful oregano olive oil.

The Old Town of Rhodes is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe and it is definitely a sight to behold. Built by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, it is completely different to the ancient Greek architecture of Lindos Acropolis we'd seen earlier that morning. I actually couldn't believe it, it was not what I expected, in a good way. Walking through the town's many gates, I felt like we had stepped back in time or stumbled on to a movie set. In the middle of the old town stands The Palace of the Grand Masters, which was was demolished by a gunpowder explosion in the 1800s and reconstructed by the Italians as a summer residence for Mussolini in 1940. 

We wandered down the cobbled Street of the Knights and into squares, little lanes, passed shops with hagglers trying to get a good bargain and traditional restaurants on every corner, twist and turn. I could have stayed there for hours.

Olive Oil Tasting | Rhodes Old Town
Rhodes Old Town
Rhodes Old Town
Street of the Knights, Rhodes Old Town
Water Fountain, Rhodes Old Town
Pigeon Drinking Water from Fountain
Water Fountain, Rhodes Old Town

3. Romantic Meals

We mainly ate in the hotel for convenience, not saying that the food wasn't good, there was a lot of choice, especially considering I am currently avoiding dairy and wheat. But eating in busy dinning room with lots of people and noise is not exactly romantic.

One night James said we should go out for dinner. He wanted something different from the hotel food. So, instead of shoving on a pair of shorts and a cute tee to head down for food after napping after the all that hard work relaxing by the pool or on the beach, we got dressed up and went on an intimate meal for two.

I love Greek food. Tatziki, Baklava. Hummus. And although I couldn't eat tatziki and baklava, due to my current diet, I certainly could eat my weight in hummus. But much to my disappointment I hadn't managed to find any in the hotel restaurant. We asked our rep where I could get my chops on some hummus and she suggested trying out a little Greek restaurant by the beach. But I was doubly disappointed to find they didn't have hummus on the menu either.

James picked the mixed grill and I decided to try swordfish. The fish had the texture and meatiness of a tuna steak, but with a more delicate flavour. It was delicious.

I don't even mind that the lighting isn't the best on the photos because I think it adds to their charm and the romantic atmosphere.

Swordish with Salad and Rice | Mixed Grill
Romantic Candlelight on Restaurant Table
Drinking Wine

There's only so long a girl can wait before drinking a glass of wine. 

Drinking Red Wine

James was very impressed with the chilled glass his beer was served in and insisted that all beer should be served like this.

Beer in a Chilled Glass

Included in the price of our stay was a free meal at the hotel's Greek taverna where we tried lots of traditional Greek food. But yet again there was no hummus to be found. The chef however, did make me some special wheat and dairy free dishes and the waiting staff even went and found me some cornbread to eat with the dips.

Greek Restaurant Hotel Sun Palace, Faliraki
Greek Restaurant Hotel Sun Palace, Faliraki
Greek Restaurant Hotel Sun Palace, Faliraki
Drinking Beer
Greek Salad and Dips
Greek Restaurant Hotel Sun Palace, Faliraki
Mixed Grill | Fish with Salad

4. The Water Park

What do you get when you take two big kids to a hotel with an onsite water park? Cheesy grins and lots of big splashes. The park was so much fun that we went a couple of times. I love these photos.

Hotel Sun Palace Faliraki Water Park
Hotel Sun Palace Faliraki Water Park
Hotel Sun Palace Faliraki Water Park
Hotel Sun Palace Faliraki Water Park
Hotel Sun Palace Faliraki Water Park

5. The Food

Ok, ok, so now what you're probably all interested in seeing as though this is a healthy living and food blog. What did I eat on holiday? If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen some of my holiday eats.

Being wheat and dairy free at the moment, that ruled out cake and ice cream. Whaaaa! I couldn't eat ice cream but I could have sorbet and indulged on a couple of occasions on a tub.

Breakfast was the hardest meal. I couldn't eat Greek yoghurt or milk and I don't eat red meat, so that narrowed my options. I mainly ate fruit, nuts and eggs. Next time I go away I will definitely pack a couple of cartons of almond milk. The rest of the time I ate a lot of salad, veg, fruit, fish and chicken or turkey. So fairly healthy, right? Well, yes, but there were a few glasses of wine and a couple of cocktails thrown in (or should I say sloshed down) and a couple of portions of fries thrown in for good measure. But I was on holiday. If I wanted something a little indulgent I had it, but most of the time it was too hot during the day for anything other than salad. I try to live in balance, so one day it was all salads and swimming, and the next was a portion of fries and a couple of cocktails. It all works itself out.

As I said in point three, we mainly ate in the hotel, though we did have a few meals out (point three) and we also ate lunch out when we went to the beach and we stopped off for lunch in Rhodes Old Town on our trip. We picked a lovely Mediterranean tavern overlooking the beautiful fountain in the middle of a bustling square (see point two for photos).

I was hot and hungry and plumbed for smoked salmon salad. They did not skimp on the fish and it was delish. James had his first pizza of the holiday. I'm surprised it took him that long. I was still on my hunt for hummus. And finally I got it! It took me six days to find hummus. Six days to find hummus in Greece. But it was totally worth it. It was creamy and just #omnomnomnom! I don't think I spoke for a few minutes while I tucked in.

Tuna Salad
Lemon Sorbet | Iced TeaSmoked Salmon Salad
Pepperoni Pizza | Hummus

I hope you've enjoyed the photos!

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