Friday, 24 October 2014

Cookbooks for Healthy Tables

My former cooking self loved to cook with double cream. At the time I was a fresh cook; new to the oven, so to speak. So I was more into the fact that I could cook something beyond beans on toast rather than focusing on cooking healthily. But after my healthy living revelation I did some research into what cook books would help me in stepping away from the cream and step towards the coconut oil.
I stopped eating meat about two years ago. My reasons were focused more on what felt right to me at the time. I realized that I didn’t crave meat so much as I was used to eating it. All my life, it was meat as the main event of the dish. I didn’t know any differently or that my plate could be any different. Meat was easy to say goodbye to, but fish was a different story. So my diet went from eating anything to pescetarian. 
My All-Star Cookbooks
On top of this, after reading up on what our modern diet does to our bodies (More recs that I will get to in the future), I decided to ditch a lot of dairy and processed sugar. Note my careful wording of ‘ditch a lot’. I haven’t managed to eradicate sugar and dairy from my diet completely, but Rome wasn’t built in a day like my newly planted bulbs won’t show me any signs of life until next spring. It’s a goal I’m looking forward to achieving it in the future. 

So, my mind was made up, I just needed a plan. And since I have no creative flair in the kitchen, I needed a guide. A Bible of sorts to steer my eating habits into a new direction. Walk into your local bookshop and there will be a hell of a lot of cookbooks filled with some annoyingly familiar faces to brand new ones. Every diet has its own shelf in the book world- you eat it, they will write it and it’s difficult to just pick and go. I felt overwhelmed by the choice but I was lucky in finding my first and favourite cook book of all time:

River Cottage Veg Everyday- This is my ‘go to’ book because it was the first one that I bought that showed me that I could have tasty, fulfilling and interesting food that was plant based. My big concern when giving up meat was: what the hell am I supposed to eat instead? Steamed broccoli and a salad for all eternity? No sir, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstallposh has got the recipes for you to make sure you’re eating food that’s good for you and way beyond beans on toast. Yes, he doesn’t mention coconut oil once, but like all recipes, you have to tweak them here and there to suit your own cooking ethos. Favourite recipes from the book include the Oven Roasted Ratatouille: so simple, so easy, so tasty. Anything that involved me bunging veg in the oven when I get home and leaving it for a few hours is a winner for me. His Pinto Bean Chilli is one that I’ll pull out when I’ve got visitors because it’s easy but also assaults the tastebuds in a very good way. Overall, I love it because it’s a vegetarian cookbook without a mention of tofu or quorn. Thank you, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall, you rock. 

Gluten Free, Grain Free: Tania Hubbard- I love to flirt with the idea of eating gluten free and this book gives me a free pass. I found it tucked away in my families cookbook collection and after a brief flick through, it went straight on my Christmas list.
And I’m glad it did, because aside from it being an interesting read as she goes into why she eats grain free as well as her views on sugar, it introduced me to THE BREAD. Chia Seed and Almond Meal bread, to be specific. It doesn't involve kneading, fancy machines or a lot of effort but it does involve tasty, healthy bread.  Now this little gem, originally published in a Aussie town called Nambour, is hard to find in the UK. However, some of the recipes from the book are available on Hubbards website so I thoroughly recommend checking it out. Other recipes that I adore from the book include her Lemon biscuits- I challenge you not to eat more than your fair share. This book is well used and one that I will always refer back to. 
Honourable mention has to go to the internet: it really has everything. After biting off more than I could chew (ahem) with online recipes, I turned to Pinterest to get smart about keeping them in one place. It’s my own little online recipe folder, which I can use and add to any time anywhere. Spending some time there can introduce you to some absolute winners. God bless the internet indeed.
I adore cooking; it’s part of my evening routine and it keeps me happy because there’s nothing quite like dancing around your kitchen like an idiot while stirring a pot full of fresh ingredients. I challenge myself to make something new at least once a fortnight so my recipe collection is slowly building. It’s important to me to enjoy what I eat, and like Alicia Silverstone mentions in her book, The Kind Diet (Another honorable mention), every meal has the potential to be the best one ever. Something that I hold to in my continuous quest in finding amazing, healthy recipes. 

x KB

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Holy Trinity of getting your change on…... AKA- the films that motivated me to take better care of myself

Let it be known that I grew up with healthy parents. Oh yes, I remember whining at them at the age of about 9 saying I was hungry and being told to have a handful of almonds. I, of course being the precocious little nine year old that I was, turned my nose up at that kind of suggestion. No, clearly hungry filler foods meant biscuits, crisps and sugary cereals. You know, all the stuff that my friends had at their house. Or better yet, the type of stuff my grandparents used to let me eat with free rein (Hundreds and thousands on white bread with butter…just think about that for a moment and Insta the face you pull). 

When I flew the coop, I instantly developed the classic University bloat. This Uni-Bloat is primarily caused by multiple jacket potato and cheese dinners, 'Pound a pint' events at your Student Union and the fact that one doesn't actually see a piece of fruit for their three year university experience. When I visited my family in Australia after my first year, they politely suggested a few changes to my diet. Things like avoiding white bread, cutting my drinking down, 'When was the last time you ate fruit?' and 'Oh my god, why are you so pale?' (This is a usual Aussie comment, tbh). I turned my nose up at their concern, taking it to heart before I took it to my brain. Having my defences up, like a lot of eighteen year olds would, I put it down to thinking they were health nutters who were just sticking their nose into my business. 

Fast forward into adulthood and I decided that I needed to change simply because I didn’t feel good. So I did the diets. I swore off chocolate for the longest of afternoons. I dabbled in yoga. I walked everywhere (Easy to do when you don't have a car or money for cabs…). But I wasn’t feeling or looking any different (Of course vanity was in there- what's wrong with a little vanity?!). What I needed to change was my diet, my routine and my mentality. I knew this, but nothing stuck. I needed a massive kick up the arse to make the change. 

I remember reading that a lot of people went vegetarian after watching the film 'Babe' (That'll do, Pig). I seem to remember experiencing the same phenomenon as a kid after watching 'The Little Mermaid' when I stopped eating fish for about a week (The kitchen scene…for real). But my real kick up the arse didn't actually come until two years ago when I came across the following frankly life changing films...

Hungry for Change also goes into the power of positive affirmations-
so simple, but so awesome!
1- Hungry for Change (2012). My older sister, a glowing Sydney-ite who lives the life, sat me down and made me watch this. Jaw. Floor. Veil. Lifted. It all became clear; why the hell hadn’t I thought of all this before? I'll confess that it is my bible doco. It instantly made sense to me, so it’s the one that I will naturally turn to first. If you look past the dramatic Hollywoodisms in the trailer (THIS SUMMER....SUGAR IS GOING TO F*** YOU UP) then it holds a lot of really good learning points to ponder about our relationship with food. The conclusions are alarming. But, in my opinion, it presents truths that were powerful enough for me to take note of. It was literally like a foot came out of that screen and roundhouse kicked me in the face.  

2-  Sugar: The Bitter Truth This is a 90 minute lecture that was put up on YouTube in July 2009 causing a huge stir across the interwebs. It's led by a guy called Robert H. Lustig who is an American paediatric endocrinologist (For those of you, like me, who glazed over that bit- is means that his area of expertise is human metabolism). The lecture highlights how sugar is a toxin and is the reason for the global obesity epidemic. He doesn’t scare you with talk of calories, instead he talks about the fact that he believes sugar to be a poison that he identifies as 'evil'.  He’s passionate, he’s a little cocky but, trust me, it's another one that packs a punch and is definitely one to watch. 

3- 101 reasons to go Vegan Okay, I only made it halfway through this and I'm also not vegan (I flirt, but more on that in later posts). But, this doco made me question again what I was putting into my body. In fact, since watching it I've been pescatarian (So I still eat fish, eggs, cheese, honey…they didn't get me there but maybe I need to watch the whole thing…). Warning: it is heavy stuff. It is graphic. Laugh at me all you want, but it made me cry. It may not have put me off eggs, but it made me reflect on where the meat I was consuming came from (Leather goods included here). So, if you’re looking to step away from eating animal related food products this is your poison. 

So there you have it: my Holy Trinity of motivational, kick up arse, life changing for the better films. I'd highly recommend viewing them if you're looking for reasons to make changes to your lifestyle. Let me know what you think of them. And if you have others to recommend back, please do!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Exercising: the necessary pain in the ass (Sometimes quite literally)

Right, take a deep breath, because I'm going to talk about exercise. Don't' worry, I'm not going to go on about how it's good for you. You know that. I knew it for years and it didn't mean squat to me, nor make me do squats for the ‘lolz’. Exercise and I could never maintain a healthy, long term relationship. 

Exercise in Sydney go together like peas and carrots. Or Avocado and balsamic vinegar; it just happens. It makes sense. Walk along the Bondi promenade in the morning and you will see surfers, dog walkers, swimmers, photographers and joggers running the frankly intimidating Bondi to Bronte route along the coast. They all know that the day starts when the sun comes up, not just when your alarm goes off. It’s part of their lifestyle, and I wanted to start injecting that kind of enthusiasm with regards to exercise in my life in the UK. 

Autumnal East Anglia on this afternoons jog 
It was slow. Hell, sometimes it still is. And it all started with the simple walk. 

Realising that I wasn’t taking advantage of the pretty, quaint English fields I live near I pushed myself to go for a 30 min walk at least twice a week. Then I moved to power walking...but not with any fancy form. Actually, I call it ‘power walking’ to sound smart, but really it was just walking with slight speed. 

Once I felt I mastered the walk (laugh all you want) I started flirting with a few 30 second sprints all RIGOROUSLY timed so I didn’t go over. And then I would DIE. I became an out of breath, snotty mess with a really appealing copper taste in the back of my throat convinced that I’d broken something internally. And boy, isn’t it just great when that bit happens just as a certified jogger prances perfectly past you, not sweating but glowing with rose smelling perspiration? Yeah, that happened a lot. 

When I moved into a flat that had a gym, I felt I had no excuses. I was also newly single and ass know no inspiration like newly found singledom. So one evening after work, after I did my semi sweaty run, I gave the gym a go. It took me a lot of sweaty months through winter to finally reach ten minutes of running. Sure, that’s laughable to a seasoned runner, but to me it was amazing. I'd never done it before and I felt incredible. And I still do every time I go outside for a run and can now jog up the hills I used to grudgingly crawl up.

We’re so used to instant everything. If you want something, the chances are you can buy it from your phone and get it delivered the next day with bells on. Exercise doesn’t work like that. It’s a long, sometimes boring and painful process with lot of moments of feeling like a failure. But, let me tell you, the gratification is better than anything you can buy. That and the fact that there is always the next goal to achieve. It’s a continuous process. 
Dangerous. Obviously. 

At the moment I work out four times a week for about 45 minutes. I do a mix of jogging, Pilates, yoga, HIIT, all depending on what I feel like I need- and want- to do. I’m not super fit, I’ve still got a lot of goals to reach, but I think that’s what keeps me going. 

Do I feel better? Yes. Absolutely. I may not be jogging down Bondi every morning but by hell I feel good about what I can do. When I don't exercise, I get cranky and generally feel a bit poo. And those moments when you beat your records; wall sits, runs, reps; when you beat your personal best you get all slow-motion-movie-walk-with-an-explosion-behind-you afterwards. It’s the best feeling. Yes, I sound like a Nike add. But trust me when I say it's life changing for the better and it’s a necessity to positive wellbeing.

Getting going tips: 
  • Don’t make any choices about whether you’re going to work out until you’ve got your work out gear on. THEN make the choice. Driving home and playing the "Will I, won’t I" game will probably result in you sitting on the couch with a cuppa. 
  • Get something that will track what you do: a pedometer, a phone app or you’re own internal sat nav. Track that progress and celebrate that extra rep or centimetre. 
  • Don’t compete with everyone else. I thought I was the doggies running-nuts until I went for a run with a great friend of mine who literally ran circles around me. It brought me back down to realising that it really doesn’t matter. Everyone has a different fitness level. And at the end of the day, your competition is only with yourself.
So tell me, how do you motivate yourself to keep active?

x KB
Thursday, 2 October 2014

We've all got to start somewhere...

The reason behind this whole blog thing was down to a few things...

One: I’m a writer, but I never seem to write enough. 

Two: I have this inexplicable thirst to talk about things I’m into which is never quenched. 

And lastly: Why the hell not. 

The ‘Why the hell not’ aspect is the biggest point. Maybe even words to live by. 

Why the hell not make a positive change to your eating habits? Your lifestyle? Your ways of thinking? 

Events in my life made me review how I was living; my attitude, what I was putting in my body and my mind. It was time to change. And it was time to do something productive....and so cue blog.

I’m Australian but have been living in the UK for the bigger portion of my life. So some days when I’m enjoying fine tea, perfect autumn weather and everything that London has to offer I feel delightfully British. But other times when I’m craving the beach, the heat of the southern sun and ripe avocados, I’m Aussie through and through. 

Now, in Australia, you can’t walk down the street without running into a juice bar and getting smacked in the face with a beautifully ripe avocado. Despite being in the top five obese countries in the world, whenever I’m visiting I get the vibe that a lot of Australia is very dedicated to a healthy lifestyle. Whenever I’m there I am in heaven with raw food restaurants, beautiful organic produce, juice bars and avocado on everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. Even at McDonalds (And here is the only time I will mention the M D wordprobably). I leave feeling rested, rejuvenated and perfectly positive. 

But then I get back to the UK. The UK, or especially East Anglia where I live, doesn’t play ball when it comes to healthy living. Juice bars? Meh. Raw food? Not outside of London, bub. A decent vegetarian menu that doesn't involve some kind of risotto or pasta dish? You must be joking. So I find it hard to stick in that Sydney state of mind where I want to stay happy and healthy giving the best to my body and mind. 

Motivation. This blog is going to motivate me to sticking with healthy was of living, eating and being. If it motivates other people, well, that would be amazing. Plus I have the belief that the more we connect, the better the journey will be.   

The obligatory disclaimer: I’m not a personal trainer, I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian, I’m not a cook, I’m not any kind of health professional. I am, however, a wannabe pseudo-hippy living in a country that denies me good coconut water and a bloody ripe avocado. And this space, dear internet friend, is where I will pour out my soul/musings/adventures in trying to live with that Aussie state of mind while enjoying all that East Anglia has to offer. 

x KB


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