Healthy pizza

As the UK bank holiday comes to an end, I thought I would share with you my simple recipe for a healthy pizza (yes, you read the right!) which packs in the flavour without piling on the pounds.

Bank holiday is notoriously a time to kick back and relax, eat out with friends, eat in with loved ones and enjoy copious amounts of cider in the sun. This year, I wanted to celebrate the long weekend without letting my new healthy diet slip in the process. Takeaway pizza is a favourite in this household, but with over 200 calories (Kcal) in a Dominos dipping sauce alone, and at least 800 Kcal in half a regular 12 inch pizza (yup, your read that right!), there was NO WAY we would be treating ourselves to this little slice wrongness.

Firstly, a note about the base. I love pizza dough and bread is one of my favourite foods. I wanted a base which would re-create that lovely doughy crunch without being high in the carb-content. Warburtons have produced a new ‘square wrap’ made from 50% white flour and 50% wholegrain (or half and half as they like to call it), which proved to be the ideal base. And at only 121 Kcal per wrap, I really couldn’t complain.

Healthy pizza

The topping

Firstly I roasted some veg in a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt until crisp and tender. You can use whatever takes your fancy, and this is a great way to use up leftovers at the end of the week. For this pizza I used peppers, onions, beetroot and mushrooms.

Once they were cooked, I spread some tomato puree onto the base, then layered fresh slices of tomato, then piled the roasted vegetables. Finally, I crumbled a small amount of cheese over the top. My top tip is to use a strong blue cheese such as Stilton. You will only need a very small amount to get that lovely cheesy flavour WITHOUT adding all the fat. Of course, you can always add your favourite meat as well if you wish.

I baked the pizzas in a medium oven for about 15 minutes until the base was crispy and the cheese had melted.

Portion wise, half a slice was ideal for me, with a lovely fresh green salad on the size. Mr O had a whole slice. And at approximately  252 Kcal for half a slice (worked out using my best friend MyFitnessPal) this is a tasty and satisfying treat for any day of the week!

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Me, my body and I

I had a bit of an epiphany when walking outside this afternoon. I was thinking about something I had been discussing with my sister last night. Having been pretty healthy recently, I had come to the conclusion that I was someone who is really affected by what I eat/ drink. My sister said to me: ‘I think everyone’s mind and body is, that’s why so many people choose a healthy lifestyle’.

Ah yes, I thought, it’s true, we really are what we eat. I’ve always been someone who tends to push the boundaries a bit, how much can I drink on a night out? I’ll just have one more slice of pizza although I’m really not hungry… Perhaps I should just finish the whole packet of biscuits then it wont be there tomorrow!

After many a long night in the pub I have been heard to say: ‘Oh I gave my body a bit of a battering last night’.

After many a food binge I will wail: ‘My poor body, what have I done to it?’

So, what was my epiphany?

My body IS ME!

That may sound obvious to many of you, but I suddenly realised that for years I have been thinking of my body as a separate entity to my being. Something which can be treated well or abused. Something which can be pushed to the extreme. My enemy when I feel fat. My best friend when I fit into that old pair of jeans. But somehow not ME.

I’ve always thought of my body as something which is linked to, but definitely not part of, my mind, my soul and my being. And I realised this is where I have been going wrong all these years. I hear the term ‘holistic’ bandied around, and I really thought I knew what it meant and tried to live by that philosophy. But how can I have been if I consider my body to be some mass of flesh which I can use and abuse without affecting my wellbeing?

So that’s it! From now on, no more lamenting my poor body. MY BODY IS ME, and so I must take full responsibility for every part of it, and yes, cheesy as it sounds, learn to embrace it for all it’s worth.

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Eating out, eating healthy – Caesar Salad

When your trying to loose weight as I am, or just to lead a healthy lifestyle, eating out can be a minefield of hidden fats and sugars, pastry, cheese and all things generally considered ‘bad’! I love eating out, it is one of my main joys in life to try new restaurants and cafes, and I am a firm believer in the philosophy of ‘a little of what you fancy’. Unfortunately for me, it tends to be more a lot of what I fancy, and the rest! So I have made it my mission to find healthy, yet still delicious options on the menu.

Step one, is to choose your venue, and make sure they use fresh produce, local where possible and all cooked from scratch. None of those mass-fried, microwaved chain pub meals please!

So, what to choose? Salad is always a good option, but who wants a salad whilst everyone else is chomping into a pie and chips, right? Wrong! (repeat after me…)

Caesar salad is a great option:

2013-05-26 12.16.27A good Caesar is packed full of protein from the chicken/ bacon or anchovies to fill you up, plus you’ve got some tasty shavings of Parmesan and crunchy croutons to add interest and texture. My top tip… Ask for the dressing on the side. So many places drown a good salad in fatty dressing. This way you can control how much you pour over your salad.

This delicious salad was from Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol. Set right on the harbour, with a fabulous outdoor seating area overlooking the water, you can enjoy freshly cooked, tasty meals at reasonable prices (this salad was under a tenner), whilst watching the boats and soaking up the rays. Bliss.

Cherry 3

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Zumba! My adventures in keep fit #2

It’s been a while since I last posted, and I have been soo busy it’s unbelievable. But inspired by a quote I saw on twitter under #FairyBlogMother I thought it was high time I let you know about my latest fitness adventure… yes you guessed it, Zumba!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really not a fan of the gym and find it extremely difficult to motivate myself. I’ve done aerobics in the past and found it affective, if a little structured and, well, serious. So then I stumbled across Zumba. Of course I have heard about it, and seen the adverts on TV, but I really just thought of it as ‘just another fad’ and didn’t give it a second thought.

Now I love dancing, in my wild early twenties I frequented many a nightclub and regularly danced till dawn, but my coordination leaves a little to be desired! With Zumba promising you can ‘ditch the workout and join the party’, it seemed the perfect solution to my fitness woes.

I’ve been to two classes now and I can safely say, I’m a convert! I’ve even cancelled my gym membership at last to free up more funds for classes. The music is upbeat Latin American and Reggae inspired, and reminds me of my travels in 2005, bringing a big smile to my face. The routines themselves flow into each other as is if you are dancing, and encompass a lot of repetition of moves so it doesn’t take long to pick them up. I felt like I had worked muscles in my body which haven’t seen the light of day for years. By the end of the hour I was pink, sweaty, tired but happy. And whats more, I had spent an hour worrying about nothing apart from which move was coming next. I am really beginning to see the benefits of exercise for a healthy mind as well as a healthy body.

Now, I just need a new exercise outfit, my old ill-fitting airtex just doesn’t cut the mustard as I prance around the dance studio feeling like a pop star. Watch this space, when I will blog about my research and let you know what outfit I choose!

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Cycling – my adventures in keep fit #1

I’m the first to admit that exercise is not my favourite past-time.
Ever since I had to stand shivering in line in a pair of blue gym-knickers (or ‘granny bashers’ as we liked to call them), waiting for someone to pick me to be in ‘their’ team so that I could run around a freezing cold pitch, risking teeth, nose and god knows what else whenever the ball came hurtling towards me…. no, team sports are not for me.

But I’m not getting any younger, and I do appreciate that intense feeling of happiness and wellbeing you get after doing some exercise. Sooo, I’m on a mission to find exercise that doesn’t feel like, well, exercise.

The weather has been great, and we have a fab cycle path running all the way from Bristol to Bath (click here for a map of the route)

Cycling And with views like this on the route who wouldn’t be tempted?

So I decided it was time to get on my bike and give it a go. Well, actually I don’t own a bike, but thanks to the lovely people at Jake’s  Bikes I was able to hire a bike, lock and helmet for the day for a mere 15 of your English pounds (or Bristol pounds, but that’s another blog post!).

Me bike see, it’s true!!

And I loved it! the sun on my skin, the wind in my hair… we cycled over 20 miles, which to a seasoned pro I’m sure doesn’t sound much, but for me was a pretty big deal.

The benefits of cycling
According to this article on Livestrong.com 60 minutes of cycling outside can burn 600 calories.. Wow. No wander I was so hungry by the end of the day.

This is a bit of an estimate, as calorie counting like this is relative to height, weight, age and speed traveled, but still I think it shows I was definitely doing some good.

Cycling is an aerobic exercise, so it will also help pump oxygen around the body and improve circulation, as well as support cardiovascular health. I certainly had a healthy glow by then end of the day, and not just from all that sun! Plus, I slept like a log and woke up fresh as a daisy and raring to go (apart from a slightly, shall we say numb, behind).

So, will I be buying a bike? Well, not quite yet. City cycling with all that traffic still frightens me. But I will certainly be hiring one for another day out very soon.

Cherry 3

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Beetroot, spinach, pine nut and feta salad

Beetroot salad

I love this salad. It’s hearty, refreshing and healthy. The feta adds an interesting creamy yet slightly salty tang, and the roasted pine nuts are ever so slightly crunchy and delicious against the fresh beetroot.

Ingredients

4 mini beets – boiled until tender (15 minutes should be enough)
Half a block of feta cheese
Two large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
Two tablespoons of pine nuts
Balsamic vinegar

MethodPine nuts

1. Roast the pine nuts lightly on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, ensuring that you keep them moving in the pan constantly as they will brown and burn very quickly.

2. At the same time peal the boiled beetroot and chop into roughly 2cm square chunks – you don’t need to be precise as this is a rustic dish.

3. Roughly tear the spinach leaves and put them in a large salad bowl with the beetroot.

4. break the feta into small bits and sprinkle over the salad, with the pine nuts. Lightly toss everything together.

5. Add a splash or two of balsamic vinegar, to taste, and lightly toss again. Balsamic vinegar adds a sharpness which cuts through the slightly meaty flavour of the nuts and beetroot. If you want more of a dressing you can also add a glug of olive oil, but this isn’t necessary.

6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Voila! A healthy summery salad, perfect with BBQ’d meat. Or why not try with grilled Mackerel and a spicy dollop of horseradish. You can make it in advance and keep in the fridge for a few hours too.

Cherry 3

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Aloe vera, the natural after-sun

The healing properties of the Aloe vera plant have been well documented. It’s a succulent plant (which means it’s thick and fleshy!), thought to have originated in North Africa. Aloe has long been used to hydrate the skin, making it especially useful when applied to sunburnt skin.

Aloe vera

There are many different gels, creams, pastes and even tablets containing Aloe vera which are sold on the market. But I have discovered recently, by far the most affective, and cheapest, way of applying it is straight from the plant itself.

You may have noticed from my picture, I have a very small nose, angled perfectly to catch the sun, even when it’s not sunny! Normally I end up with a red,pealing nose regardless of the amount of sunblock I apply, but not this summer!

To use Aloe straight from the plant, snap one of the upright leaves close to the base. You will find a clear, gel like liquid inside which you can squeeze onto your hands.

Aloe vera 2

Apply the gel directly to the skin, you will find it sinks into the skin quickly and easily, and voila! The perfect, and free, after-sun lotion!

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The sun, vitamin D and calcium

The sun

At last, summer appears to have arrived in full force for those of us in the UK, and not a moment too early I have to say!

I’ve always been a bit of a worshiper of the sun, I’m at my happiest when basking in it’s glorious rays. But this year more than ever before, I am making a conscious effort to get out into the sun as much as possible. I’ve been aware that vitamin D, which the sun provides, is good for us for quite some time, but had never really thought about it very much. I know I feel good when I’m outside, but that’s about as far as it got really. Until, that is, this winter, when I started commuting to work every day. My journey to work was now 1.5 hours in a car, where before I had always walked. I also got into the  all too common habit of eating my lunch at my desk. So really, I was getting zero natural light every day.

I suffered from cold after cold, constantly sneezing and bunged up. Then, in March, I was struck down by full blown flu, a flu even worse than when I was a kid. I was knocked out for over a week.

I began to have the sneaking suspicion that I needed to get outside more, my body was lacking something and I didn’t know what.

I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Europe for the weekend. Just 3 days sat at cafe’s in the sun, and I could feel the aches and pains easing out of me. So, all was well and good, I took it as corroboration of my long held belief that the sun was healing, and left it at that.

That is until I started to have some strange symptoms when sleeping at night. I’d wake up with my knuckle joints aching, pins and needles in my hands and feet, and occasionally my fingers would actually be locked in a claw like manner which would leave them aching all day. As the symptoms persisted, I decided to have a chat to my doctor, who took a blood test. When the results came in it turned out I had a mild calcium deficiency. Nothing serious, but strange none the less, as I do eat cheese and milk. I started to research further on the internet, and what did I discover? Low levels of calcium in the blood can actually be caused by a lack of vitamin D. Well I never!

So why is vitamin D so important?

According to the NHS website  (long may it continue), vitamin D is necessary to enable us to absorb calcium and phosophorus from our diet. These minerals are, in turn, important for healthy bones. In adults, low levels of vitamin D can lead to osteomalacia which causes bone pain and tenderness. Bingo!

According to the NHS, people at most risk from a vitamin D deficiency (and so in turn a lack of calcium), fall into the following groups:

  • all pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • all babies and young children from six months to five years old
  • older people aged 65 years and over
  • people who are not exposed to much sun, for example those who cover their skin, or who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods
  • people who have darker skin, for example those of African Caribbean and South Asian origin

I definitely fell into the ‘confined indoors’ category.

So what did I do?

In this country, it sometimes feels like sunlight is getting rarer and rarer. Still, I am making it my mission to get out into the sun as much as possible (with sun lotion on, natch).

To give me that extra boost, I also popped down to Holland and Barrett to get some vitamin D and calcium pills, which they handily sell combined:

Calcium

I’ve been taking two a day for a month now, and I’m happy to report that the symptoms have almost disappeared.

But I don’t want to be taking vitamin supplements forever, what else could I do?

Aside from getting out and about as much as possible, I have started to do a bit of research into foods which are high in calcium. Here is my list so far:

Food which is high in calcium

Greens – like Kale and broccoli Kale
Yoghurt
Cheese
Milk
Pak choi
Soy products like Tofu
Almonds
Sardines and other fish

Now to think of a tasty recipe combining them all! Watch this space for my super food calcium enriched supper….

Cherry 3

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Shopping local, planning meals

Living here in the UK I am lucky to be surrounded by all manner of local shops, selling everything from handmade jewellery to specialist food, home grown veg to tasty cakes and vintage clothes.  Having absolutely zero green fingers myself, I like to try and buy my fruit and veg from the local greengrocer wherever possible.  I find they taste better, and are often as cheap as, if not cheaper than the supermarket.  I love to support local businesses run by people who really care about the products they are selling, and have found some real gems searching through little corner shops and markets.  I’m often perplexed, however, by their opening hours.  For those of us doing the 9-5 slog every day, we can’t make it to the greengrocer to pick up our veg when they only stay open until 5.30pm.  I don’t know about you, but my weekends are often so busy/fun-packed/booze fueled/ (delete as appropriate) that I don’t really want to sit and plan my meals for the week, let along traipse round the shops picking up my provisions.

We do, however have a wonderful shop just round the corner, The Better Food Company

Better food company

Specialising in local, organic produce, natural beauty products, and a wonderful line in cakes! AND, it’s open until 8pm most nights – hurrah!

But this is the new me! And one that needs to save every penny.  So, Mr A and I have implemented a new system… a system whereby we actually plan what we eat instead of dashing to the supermarket each evening and spending £20 on food which has been packaged, packaged again, and processed within an inch of it’s life.

The menu – week one

Monday – Cottage pie (we managed to freeze two portions)

Tuesday – Slow-cooked Chinese style pork with stir fry veg and noodles

Wednesday – Slow-cooked pork with roast potatoes and veg

Thursday – Pork with salad (still the same joint!)St Pauls 1

Friday –  We’re eating out (it is my birthday!)

Saturday – ok so we’re eating out again, but this really IS my birthday, and we will be savoring the sublime jerk chicken from one of the many stalls at Bristol’s answer to Notting Hill… St Paul’s Carnival (watch this space for another post about that!)

Sunday – Chilli con carni (made with the same mince mix from Monday)

Including a few cupboard staples, and lunches, we managed to spend the grand total of £25 each… not bad for a first effort  I thought! (ok so I’m not going to lie, the pork joint came from my parents but everything else was brought there and then!)

Ah the joy of the weekly shop, I’ll let you know how it goes!

Cherry 3

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The new me!

For all those of you who have been following my blog, you may (or may not!) have noticed I haven’t been around for a while.

For this I am sorry, but I’m back!  I’ve given my little blog, just like my life, a much needed makeover.  I hope you enjoy looking around and reading my updates.  It really is time for me to take…

Another bite of the cherry Cherry 3

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