Thursday, 26 January 2017

P'S GUIDE TO THE 5: 2 DIET . . . PART TWO!

Back in December of last year I posted a guide to the 5:2 Diet and promised a part two coming soon. Apologies it has taken me a wee bit of time to get around to producing this . . . however, I'm hoping it will be useful to anyone considering giving this diet a shot, or perhaps a wee bit additional inspiration if you're struggling!



So first of all, let's look at some of the books which are available which will cater to the 5:2 Diet . . .

Fast Days and Feast Days by Elly Pear
I really like this book; there are some great fast days ideas in there. My main problem with it is that I feel there are more feast day recipes. However, the courgette dahl is a definite fast day winner, and there are some good fast day ideas for batch-cooking so I would still recommend it for fast days and overall general healthy eating.

The Ultimate 5: 2 Diet Recipe Book by Kate Harrison
I have to admit I'm more familiar with Kate Harrison as a chick-lit author but she's became somewhat of a 5:2 guru also, and this book is full of easy recipe ideas... as well as contributions from several regular people doing the 5:2 diet and their experience of it.

Fast Cook by Mimi Spencer
This is the latest addition to my collection - I haven't tried anything from it yet, but there are loads of recipes to choose from, including a selection of 600 calorie meals for any men trying the diet. There is also a whole section dedicated to "skinny" versions of classic comfort food, like chilli, spag bol, and coq au vin.


And what are some of the recipes I've tried on this diet?

As I touched on in part one, I do tend to skip breakfast and then have some sort of tinned low calorie soup in a flask at lunchtime, saving most of my calories for a low calorie delicious home-made meal at dinner followed by a small bar of chocolate - this is the way I've worked out I can make this work for me. And having something delicious to look forward to for dinner is one of the main things that keeps you going on this diet!

So let me provide you with a couple of recipes I have tried so far as fast day dinners which have been delicious!

First up, we have the aforementioned courgette dahl from Elly Pear.



This was gorgeous. The egg is optional but I had the calories available for it so I thought it was a good extra. The recipe is in the book, but I managed to track down a copy of it online also - I'm nice like that! For me, this worked out at just over 200 calories including the egg.  (By the way, I would always recommend using myfitnesspal and plugging in the calories as you go along, as the ingredients you're using may differ slightly from a recipe and you want to have an accurate calorie count.)

Next up we have my own kidney bean curry recipe, which I adapted very slightly to fit in with the 5:2 diet. By which I pretty much mean "left out the rice".



The original can be found here but it's pretty simple so I'll sum it up again here.  To serve two people you need one 400g tin of kidney beans, 400 g chopped tomatoes, red onion, a pepper, a teaspoon of bouillon powder and whatever spices you like! I topped it with one of those little mini pots of light Philadelphia, and it was lush and relatively filling! Worked out at just under 300 calories per serving.

Another idea is this mushroom goulash recipe, which can be found on this website - this was also delicious. I swapped the celery (not a fan!) for spring onions and courgetti . . .



. . .and after I'd plugged the calories into myfitnesspal I realised I still had absolutely tons of calories to play with, so I toasted a Warburtons thin and popped this on top along with the low calorie crème fraiche mentioned in the recipe. 250 calories - BOOM!

Then we have the delicious Saag Paneer.



I love love love paneer.  This was oh so delicious. This is from the Kate Harrison book I mentioned above, and unfortunately for you guys I cannot find a copy of the recipe online (sorry!) but its main ingredients are frozen spinach, paneer, onion and OODLES of spice topped one again with a wee bit of reduced fat crème fraiche. Less than 300 calories.

And last but not least (for now anyway!) we have chorizo and butterbean stew, which I got the recipe for from this website.



This one came in at just over 200 calories and it was very tasty. I do wish I could have had a tad more chorizo in it though!

I hope these recipes will come in handy for you if you are on the 5:2 diet but there's absolutely tons of other ideas out there and I encourage you to seek them out as personally I think the more interesting you can make this diet the easier it is to stick to!

Obviously you can opt for low calorie ready meals if you want to, and I realise it can be easier than slaving away in the kitchen - but none of the above recipes are difficult to make and shouldn't take you that much longer. PLUS . . . you're burning calories as you chop and cook and dance around the kitchen so why wouldn't you?!?


What other resources are there if you want to do 5:2 and need inspiration?


First up, if you're a Facebook user, I would recommend joining the 5:2 Intermittent Fasting Diet closed group on there for inspiration. There are tons of active users on there, encouraging each other - loads of support if you're struggling a bit during the day, and a thread where members share their favourite fast day meals... you may notice some of my pictures above pop up there, I go on there quite often for a wee bit of inspo.

The official Fast Diet forums are also a good shout for a wee bit of research - you can find recipe threads on there too!

Other ideas can be found on Pinterest and Instagram, just by searching for 5:2 diet ideas. I've found absolutely tons of my recipes through Pinterest, so I would definitely recommend there for a wee browse. Although I tend to get sucked down the Pinterest rabbit hole and emerge several hours later starving and drooling, so it's not always ideal if you're on a fast day to do your research then. (Although I strangely find it works for me - like eating without the calories - so each to their own!)


I hope this guide, along with part one, has helped you if you are considering 5:2, and if I come across any more lovely fast day recipes I will be sure to let you know - pinky promise!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

THE POST-HOLIDAY BLUES . . .

I'm just back from a couple of days in a lovely cottage up north, and I can't deny it; I'm feeling pretty "flat" right now. I definitely have a case of the post-holiday blues. I don't know about anyone else, but it doesn't seem to matter to me whether I'm away for a long weekend somewhere in Scotland, or a week abroad somewhere distinctly warmer, I still end up feeling down after I'm back. There's various reasons for this, I reckon, so let me break it down for you in this wee post...



Getting the routine back
When I'm on holiday all bets are off. The diet is off, I can go to bed later, stay in bed longer the following day . . . if I'm abroad I may start drinking earlier during the day, I might be having my meals at different times or enjoying different types of food. Going back home means trying to jump back on the diet and exercise wagon and having a more rigid timetable for doing things. And yes, yes, I know I could just not let go of this routine while on holiday and try and keep some of it up so it wouldn't be so hard to go back to but . . . I can't help but feel "I'm on holiday, let me do what I like please!"

Eating out a lot
Being on holiday is one of my biggest excuses for having a lot of meals out. To be honest, I do also have quite a lot of meals out at home but . . . not every single night.

Going back to work
There's always that little part of me that delights in being off work on a day I know all my colleagues are in. Knowing I'm somewhere that wee bit (or a lot) more fun adds to the joy off being away somewhere on a wee jaunt. It therefore follows that coming back to work afterwards and falling back down to reality is a bit of a downer. I always need to have a wee day or two if possible after the holiday to wean myself back in before I head back into the office.

So much stuff!!!
You know the feeling . . . you spend ages packing to go away, trying to squeeze all your favourite clothing and and accessories and shoes into your suitcase. Then you discover that, not only did you not end up wearing half of what you packed, you're kinda loving your "minimal" amount of possessions while on holiday. All your stuff can be packed away into drawers and the wardrobes neatly and you have more space than you ever have at home. Then you get home and realise you have about 1000 times the stuff you had on holiday and wonder what you possibly need it all for as your place is an absolute pigsty (that isn't getting cleaned by someone else every other day - what's that all about?!?). Disclaimer: please replace every "you" with "I" in this paragraph.

Serious case of wanderlust
I always immediately want to go away on holiday again and before I'm even back in the office I'm already trying to work out when my next annual leave should be, and where we should go next to get away from it all. It's never ending.

However, with three overnight voucher deals between me and the fella which need to be used before the end of March, hopefully it won't be too long before we can break the routine again. :-) So at least there's those to look forward to.

I'm not, however, looking forward to the inevitable post-holiday blues after those trips away . . .

What gets you down after a holiday?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

WHY BLOGGING IS BRILLIANT , , ,

I've been blogging now for over nine years and, although I have times when I do take extended breaks from posting, or simply don't post as much, it is a hobby that I've continued to do frequently over this time, and have always kept returning to. And the simple fact of the matter is, it's because I love it!

Almost a year ago now, I wrote a post about my personal downsides to blogging . . . so now it's time for me to provide a bit of balance and present why I think blogging is brilliant!









It's my own little corner of the internet
I can write about whatever the heck I want to write about, and if other people want to read it, then they're more than welcome to. I love when people comment (sadly does happen less and less) and can identify with what I'm writing about, and I love when I can provide assistance or support to someone with a post subject, even that wasn't necessarily my intention when writing it. And as I don't have a niche the world is my oyster!


Meeting new friends
I have made a few really good friends through blogging, and I love this. I've found it does get a bit harder to find really good new friends as you get older, but the beauty of blogging is that sometimes you get to know a person online really well before you even meet them in real life - so when you do finally meet them it's like they've known you for years!


The odd freebie
Now, I didn't go into blogging for free stuff . . . and that's probably a very good thing as I don't get much in the way of it! ;-) I have got the odd wee bonus item though, some hair serum, some gymwear, and even an egg boiler/poacher machine. (I actually still need to use the latter.)


I'm a better writer than a talker
I'm pretty shy (although many will dispute this!) and I often get nervous talking in front of more than a handful of people, and when surrounded by strong personalities I tend to just feel overpowered and clam up or end up stammering over my words even though I know exactly what I want to say. I've always been better at putting my thoughts and feelings into written rather than spoken word, and so my blog is a good forum for me to actually voice my opinion without being interrupted, while also giving me time to measure my thoughts without pressure.


It's a comfortable hobby
Are there many hobbies where you can snuggle up in your bed, or the corner of your sofa, in your PJs, and type away on your laptop to your heart's content? I think not. Okay, you have to go out sometimes to take some pictures or get some experiences to write about . . . but the main part of my blogging process is the comfortable typing-away part and that suits me perfectly!


It's something to look back on
Is it just me or does anyone else read back over bits of their own blog regularly? With nine years of memories there, I do like to go back through parts of it sometimes - there's so many funny moments that I may have forgotten about had I not documented them on here, for example. And also, looking back reminds me of how far I've came over the years... which can only be a good thing. I don't blog as much personal stuff as I used to, but it's definitely interesting to look back on!


What do you love about blogging?

Monday, 23 January 2017

SCOTLAND THE BEAUTIFUL: GLEN ELCHAIG . . .

There are many things I love about Scotland . . . and one of the best is that there are constantly new bits to discover. New to us anyway . . . they've been here all along, we just need to find them. Whether that's by recommendation, or by chance.

Glen Elchaig was one of these chance findings.








We wanted a cottage up North for the fella's birthday, he found one we liked the look of. All we knew was it was near Dornie and the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh. Turns out it was actually in the tiny hamlet of Camas-Luinie, and after driving through the most delightful valley to find the cottage, we dug deeper.


To find Glen Elchaig, head North towards Eilean Donan castle . . . not far past there, you swing a right onto a small single-track road with passing places. It almost instantly opens out into fabulous scenery, dramatic hills reflecting mirror images of their beauty into the loch below. The road can be a bit hazardous at times (meeting a car coming in the opposite direction in the dark and having to reverse without a clue where the last passing place was is pretty stressful - and I was the passenger not the driver!), but as long as you're careful and try and note where the passing places are (and ideally try and navigate it when it's relatively light still), you'll be fine!

 

Every time we left the cottage to head out to Skye or Applecross or Glenelg (more on that one in an upcoming post), I would see another beautiful scene that I needed to capture immediately on my camera. This glen, as I said in one of my (many) instagram posts featuring it, was the glen that kept on giving. It is an absolute stunner . . . and with only a handful of houses in each of the hamlets it is pretty untouched and unspoilt.

If you are looking for a MASSIVE walk, Glen Elchaig is also one of the starting points for a walk to the Falls of Glomach. The car park for this is near to Camas-Luinie, which is about seven miles from the main road. Then the walk itself is apparently 5-7 hours long. Um . . . really not for me, but the falls are meant to be pretty magnificent so if you're into that sort of thing, please feel free to go and take some pictures for me, okay? There are also plenty of mountains around, so I'm sure if you do a bit of research into Glen Elchaig you'll find quite a few worth a clamber up.


Even if you're in the area, have a wee wander in to the glen and a look around. Drive to the car park just for the hell of it, and find this little gem of a glen that you may have missed. It's definitely worth the detour.



Have you ever been to Glen Elchaig?





Sunday, 15 January 2017

RECIPE: EASY MUSHROOM CURRY . . .

Last weekend myself and the fella went out for dinner to Ashoka West End . . . a restaurant I would whole-heartedly recommend if you happen to be in the west end of Glasgow and have a hankering for a curry. Anyway, I have been trying to cut down on my meat intake of late so I decided to go for a paneer starter followed by the mushroom bhaji curry. It was absolutely delicious, and even the fella had a taste and decided he would probably be ordering that next time we visited the restaurant.

And it got me thinking, why had I never tried to make a curry using mushrooms as the main ingredient before? So, this week, I decided to give it a go.

And for a first attempt, it was pretty damn delicious. So I have decided to share the recipe, cos I'm nice like that.



*****What you need*****

***Approximately 250g mushrooms, chopped into smaller pieces
***1 small red onion,  diced
***Half a red pepper, sliced (to be honest you can use more red pepper if you want, I only had half of one left though!)
***2-3 cloves of garlic
***A tablespoon of olive oil
***200ml passata
***1 tsp coriander
***1 tsp cumin
***1 tsp turmeric
***1-2 tsps. hot chilli powder (or more if you are an absolute spice fiend)
***Sprinkling of chilli flakes
***1/2 tsp bouillion powder


*****Let's get cooking!*****

1) Add your olive oil to a frying pan and heat it up before throwing in the mushrooms and fry them for a couple of minutes
2) Add in the onion and garlic and continue to fry for a few more minutes before adding in the red pepper
3) Add the passata and bouillion, you can also add a bit of water if you feel the mixture needs loosened at all.
4) Get those spices added and let it all simmer together for another ten minutes or so.
5) Serve up with rice and stuff it in your mouth.

Nice and easy to make, and totally delicious, pinky promise. And another good choice if you don't eat meat or are taking part in Veganuary. There's no crap in it, packed full of veg, and it's low fat and low calorie. How can you resist?

Thursday, 12 January 2017

SNOW CHANCE . . .

It snowed today.

I'm sure a lot of you are aware of this, as I don't believe the snowfall was restricted to the central belt of Scotland.

What you might not be aware of, however, is the fact that I am quite definitely not a fan of snow.


It looks pretty, yes, and don't get me wrong, I am more than happy to drive through a snow covered scene and snap away with my phone's camera, or look out at it from the comfort of my own home. And when I was a child, I loved snow. Let's face it. I think most of us as kids (and possibly still now) equate snow with Christmas, and most of us love Christmas so it has good memories for me as a child.

But as an adult, the impracticalities of snow are unavoidable.

Snow days were excellent as a child when you discovered that school was cancelled. (One memorable time, myself and my sister watched the film "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" four times in one day. That was an excellent day.)

As an adult, it's not that easy. You can't hide away from the world, and avoid going outside . . . except to make a snowman and have a fun snowball fight, obviously. You still have to at least try to get to the office, try not to fall flat on your arse on a patch of black ice you didn't see coming, try to get supplies to keep you alive in case everyone panic-buys the entire supermarket.

The snow only looks pretty for a day or two, then it ices over or turns to slush, and leaves you longing for a heavy rainfall just to wash it all away.

And kids gravitate towards it like magnets so they can form angry snowballs to throw hard at strangers for no apparent reason other than it's there, and they maybe have rage issues. And you're not really meant to return the favour. I don't think it's not allowed, per se, but I believe it's frowned upon.

And it's cold!!!

I can understand why people like snow, why people are excited about it, I really can. But I just can't get on board with it.

Snow sucks.

That being said, myself and the fella are heading up north for a long weekend next week . . . and if we got snowed in to the cottage we're staying in when we're up there, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

But that's mainly because it gives me an excuse to not leave the house for days and drink wine in my PJs, so it's not really about the snow . . .


Are you a snow fan?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

RECIPE: SPICY SWEET POTATO & COCONUT SOUP . . .

Happy new year everyone! Hope 2017 has been good to you so far.

I don't know about the rest of you but I'm going to assume that most who have been overindulging over the festive period have now turned to their  January health kick. I walked into Sainsburys the other day and the first thing I came across was a massive display of every "new year new you" cliché you could ever imagine - tons of random fitness paraphernalia, a plethora of healthy eating books and a myriad of water/protein shake bottles, you know the type of thing I mean.

I, of course, laughed to myself cynically at the very idea before continuing on my way to the other side of the shop to buy my healthy groceries . . . because, y'know, "NEW YEAR NEW ME"!

Anyway, I went home and did a bit of food prepping, because most of the time that's literally the only thing that will stop me from popping down the road from my office for a portion of "half chips and half macaroni cheese" - boy, that is one delicious discovery I regret happening across. And I cooked up a batch of my favourite soup of the moment - spicy sweet potato and coconut.



It's really quite delicious, but also really simple and very healthy, containing all good things. Probably the most important thing for me though is that it is really bloody easy to make. For some reason, even after I started getting much better at cooking, I was scared to make soup. And most of the time, even once I did start trying, it would end up looking like sludge. And, really, who wants to eat something that looks like sludge?

Luckily, this soup does not look like sludge. Phew.

So shall we begin?

*****What you need*****

***420g sweet potato, chopped into chunks (I don't bother peeling them, as far as I'm concerned they're fine au natural)
***50g red pepper, chopped
***50g red onion, chopped
***2 large plum tomatoes, chopped
***70g red lentils
***1 vegetable stock cube
***Salt and pepper to taste
***Spices of your choice (I opt for a sprinkling of chilli flakes, a small amount of hot chilli powder and a smattering of cayenne pepper)
***Cold water (to cover)
***Coconut milk (I use light, use normal if you like!) - half of a normal sized tin
***Dessicated coconut, a tablespoon or two


*****Let's get cooking!******

1)Throw your sweet potato into a big pot and make sure all those chunks are covered in water. Turn your hob on and start boiling these up.

2)Add the other veg, lentils, stock cube, seasoning and spices and then keep cooking the contents of the pan until the sweet potato goes pretty soft. I would give it about half an hour, but it really depends on your kitchen equipment. You don't need to babysit the pot, just check on it occasionally to make sure it's not out of control or anything.

3)Once this is boiled, turn down the heat and mix in the coconut milk and dessicated coconut. Leave to cool a bit.

4)Time to get blending. I use a stick blender cos it's the easiest option and I'm lazy. I like to blend my soup until it's pretty smooth - it's up to you how far you go with it though. I also tend to add a bit more spice before I start blending.



The result is a delicious creamy coconutty soup with a bit of a kick. This recipe made three fairly large portions to take into work for lunch in a flask for a couple of days - I imagine if you were making it as a starter for a meal you could probably stretch it to four small bowls.

It's healthy, it's dairy-free, vegetarian, I believe it's also even vegan-friendly (so could be a great choice if you are doing Veganuary this year or just looking to cut down on your meat intake!). I have just plugged the ingredients into MyFitnessPal and it works out at just under 300 calories for one of my large servings, so it's a good and filling lunch but you'll still have plenty of calories left to spare for other meals if you keep track of such things.

Just try it . . . okay?