Monday, 26 March 2012

Cake and Mothers day

I thought I'd share a photo or two from the cake I made for Mothers Day last last weekend. With a few little tips.

1) Always make chocolate cake for the reason alone that it tastes of chocolate. It may be a simple rule but damn it it's true.

2) Do not make a 9" cake when you are only trying to feed 5 people. It will defeat you.

3) If you ignore rule 2 then at least don't make the cake in question three layers tall. This is cake suicide people. If there's a way to go this is it, but then you won't be around to enjoy future cakes... so overall, not advised.

So yes I managed to stick to rule 1 but 2 and 3 went out the window. Two out of three isn't too bad though right?
Chocolate frosting drenched cupcake for good measure :)

Mothers day cake!

You may wonder why the cake looks as though shrek has faceplanted ontop of the cake but there is a story behind this and it's actually fairly rational. Which is an achievement in my little insane world! Basically we tend to get caterpillar cakes for most occasions since we've been little. I've never been a massive fan of the caterpillar cakes but to uphold tradition, lo' and behold; a cheeky caterpillar face cake :)

Much more my cup of tea. Who says healthy can't be cute! And don't get me started on the taste! I tend to find the standard caterpillar cakes are dry and give you that lump in the throat kind of feeling. Bleurgh. But not this one!

The cake was a huge hit and everyone threatened to finish off the cake themselves. I enthousiatically joined in this chorus however on slice of this cake may look innocent but innocent it is not. Filled with truly heroic ingredients this cake is healthy as a cake would possbily want to be. However the taste is so very naughty. And however small that one slice may look, man does it fill you up. I truly was expecting to eat half the cake in a sitting and this isn't a rare phenomenon. I thought I could take it but hey on this occasion I got served. Cake you may have won this battle but trust me, the war has not even started yet!!

Bring. It. On.


Emily Collingridge 1981-2012

First of all I would like to warn everyone that the tone of this post will be fairly sombre. I promise to return to a more upbeat tempo with following posts but today I would like to dedicate a small part of my day to a family friend who has recently passed away.

I am happy to say that I mananged, despite the severity of her disease, to have had a few conversations with her. These short sentiments were always over text as Emily had very little energy avaliable and even the smallest tasks can seem like climbing mount everest, twice, blindfolded whilst carrying double your bodyweight on your back.

As someone who has suffered from chronic disease (Lyme disease) this heartfelt appeal simultaeneously brings back the awful memories of how I myself felt similar to a couple of years ago before I started my treatment but also gratitude that I have managed to regain a great deal of health and am able to do so much more than I could previously. I can now dare to hope that those years are slipping into my past and that my present and future are becoming ever brighter.

The subject of chronic disease is incredibly close to my heart. I do feel that the spectrum or "autoimmune" and chronic diseases are misunderstood and that we simply do not know enough about them with little to offer in the way of treatment.

I would like to share one small short story before I post the appeal, of one of our messages we sent. I was only a short time into my treatment and was starting to get better. Emily had asked me how I was feeling and I had replied that I was feeling frustrated and lost. I was tired of lying in bed or slowly breathlessly amble slowly around the house. I wanted to go outside, go to the cinema, go to school, do anything other normal kids do. Emily replied that it must be so difficult for me and that people often get lost in the wake of chronic ill health when you can't keep up with them. People that we were previously close to do not know what to do and as you can't do anything there are more exciting things out there. My priority should be to rest and get better. If I was ever frustrated or wanted to talk to someone then she couldn't promise she could talk as it would wear her out too much but that I could always text her and she would reply as soon as she possibly could. Focused on my own situation at the time, I didn't realise the energy that writing this text must have taken out of her. With her being so much more ill than I (I was housebound whereas Emily was completely bedbound), that even in her situation she still had the heart to offer her help me without complaining of her own situation. With a purely empathetic and caring answer.

Rest in Peace x

Emily Collingridge wrote an appeal about a year before she died. This is the appeal reposted from;

" Emily mother’s Jane has asked for these last written words from Emily to be reposted. About a year ago, Emily tapped them into the keyboard of her smartphone over many weeks – while she still had the strength in her body to do so.
Emily’s Appeal
It has been said that the following is hard to read. But that is all we ask you to do: to read it, to forward/re-post it and to pledge your support for the many thousands of people like Emily who have to LIVE it.
“My name is Emily. I developed the neurological condition Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) when I was 6 years old. In April 2011 I turned 30. I still have ME.
ME coloured every aspect of my childhood; it painfully restricted my teens and it completely destroyed my twenties. Now, as I move into the next decade of my life, I am more crippled than ever by this horrific disease.
My doctors tell me that I have been pushed to the greatest extremes of suffering that illness can ever push a person. I have come very close to dying on more than one occasion. If you met me you may well think I was about to die now – it’s like that every single day. After all these years I still struggle to understand how it’s possible to feel so ill so relentlessly.
My reaction to small exertions and sensory stimulation is extreme. Voices wafting up from downstairs, a brief doctor’s visit, a little light, all can leave me with surging pain, on the verge of vomiting, struggling with each breath and feeling I’ll go mad with the suffering. Of course it can also be as bad as this for no particular reason – and often is. I cannot be washed, cannot raise my head, cannot have company, cannot be lifted from bed, cannot look out of the window, cannot be touched, cannot watch television or listen to music – the list is long. ME has made my body an agonising prison.
My days and nights are filled with restless sleep interspersed with injections, needle changes (for a syringe driver), nappy changes (as well as experiencing transient paralysis and at times being blind and mute, I am doubly incontinent) and medicines/fluid being pumped into my stomach through a tube. My life could be better if I had a Hickman line (line which goes into a major vein and sits in the heart) for IV drugs and fluids, but such a thing would likely kill me. I’m on a huge cocktail of strong medications which help, yet still most days the suffering is incomprehensible. During the worst hours I may go without the extra morphine I need as I feel so ill that the thought of my mother coming near to administer it is intolerable – this despite pain levels so high that I hallucinate.
I live in constant fear of a crisis driving me into hospital; our hospitals have shown such lack of consideration for the special needs of patients like me that time spent in hospital is torture (eased only by the incredible kindness shown by some nurses and doctors) and invariably causes further deterioration.
Many days I feel utter despair.
But, unlike some sufferers, over the long years in which I’ve had severe ME (the illness began mildly and has taken a progressive course) I have at least had periods of respite from the absolute worst of it. During those periods I was still very ill, but it was possible to enjoy something of life. So in these dark days I know there is a real chance of better times ahead and that keeps me going.
My entire future, and the greatly improved health I so long for, however, currently hinges on luck alone. This is wrong. As I lie here, wishing and hoping and simply trying to survive, I (and the thousands like me – severe ME is not rare) should at least have the comfort of knowing that there are many, many well-funded scientists and doctors who are pulling out all the stops in the quest to find a treatment which may restore my health and that the NHS is doing all possible to care for me as I need to be cared for – but I don’t. This wretched, ugly disease is made all the more so through the scandalous lack of research into its most severe form and the lack of necessary, appropriate support for those suffering from it. This is something that must change.
And that is why I tell my story; why I fight my painfully debilitated body to type this out on a smartphone one difficult sentence at a time and to make my appeal to governments, funders, medical experts and others:
Please put an end to the abandonment of people with severe ME and give us all real reason to hope.” "

Monday, 19 March 2012

Fasting and a Green day...

Ah, I miss Green Day.

*Sigh* teenage angst. Man I haven't listened to them in a while. Now I'll probably end up in a green day coma for the next few hours. Anyway back on topic, it seems most people have caught the St Patricks day green fever. Some choose to wear green whereas others seem to have decided to make everything they ate on the day green... I didn't count myself to be in either group however dinner did end up greener than previously planned. I had a big cooked breakfast in the am and had a bit of a thing for snacking on grapes for the rest of the day so when it came to dinner I wanted something quick and light...

and yes, apparently fairly green...

Pesto has to be one of my favourite condiments. Soooo goooood :)

Mixed into my caulimash with a sprinkle of cheese. Great light meal.

Is it wierd that my whole meal was half a head of cauliflower with a generous dollop of my pesto?

Some would say that this doesn't qualify for a meal but I would ask; why on earth not?

We've become so used to the idea that we must have meals at certain times of the day and these meals must consist of meat, veg and a generous helping of some starchy form. Yeah some of these meals are great (nix the overly large starchy part) however, if you want something light then why not just have part of that?
Advantages are that;

a) it's cheaper; if you're not hungry then eating a heavy meal for the sake of it is pointless and burns holes in your pockets for no good reason.

b) It's such a time saver; It took me about, what, 10 minutes to steam the cauli and blend with my pesto. And hey pesto (haha... sorry, I apologise, I'll try not to do that again!)

c) Excess fat accumulation avoided; if you don't feel hungry and you have a few pounds you'd like to see the back end of then this tactic surely won't go amiss?

This brings me onto a topic which is a real bugbear of mine. Those of you who may be familiar with ways of eating which I follow closely, such as Paleolithic, Primal, Caveman diet etc may be aware that there is some discussion centered around Fasting, most commonly; Intermittent Fasting (IF). To quote dear old Wiki, (when you type in intermittent fasting);

"Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting (usually meaning consumption of water only) and non-fasting."

People get rather flustered when you mention fasting, shrinking away from the conversation, as if it were a taboo word, imagining people starving themselves, an anorexic mindset driving the refusal of any kind of calorie. But this isn't the type of fasting I mean. Intermittent fasting is, as suggested above, going without food for a certain period of time. There are conflicting ideas for how long this should be, ranging from a lower 14 hours overnight (eg from something like 6pm to 8am) to a longer, more substantial 24 hour/ whole day fast.
The idea is that fasting gives our bodies a break from constantly digesting the food we ingest and instead to focus on other priorities in the body such as repair and maintenance. Periods of IF have been suggested to put the body into fat burning mode, so as there is no food coming in, the body must use it's own resources, breaking down the fat stores to gain the energy needed by the body.

Health benefits have also been touted such as;
Increased insulin sensitivity
Reduces rick of diabetes
Slows aging effects
to name a few...

Personally, when it comes to fasting, I like to approach it from a very subjective point of view. I have a fairly clear rule. If i'm hungry I eat. If i'm not hungry I don't eat. This may sound like the most ridiculously simple thing you've heard in a while but think about your eating plans honestly. Have you ever not realised you're hungry until you realised that it was "dinner time" and so you ate something just because that is the time you are supposed to eat at?
The 3 meal rule has become such a standard that we forget to check whether we're actually hungry or not. Skipping a meal or delaying it does not mean neccessairily that you're starving youself. More often than not your body has enough sustenance required. Why put in more than you need?

I use IF fairly subconciously. I find I'm very much a breakfast person. I like having breakfast, find I work better if I have a meal in the morning and it's a part of my waking up routine that I like and helps start my day off on a good note.
The rest of the day is variable. Lunch is my least favorite meal. In all honesty, I'm not a massive fan, although it does depend on my level of activity. Again, going back to my rule, if i'm hungry and have been rushing aroubnd all day then I'll usually have something. Alternatively I will have a small snack or just miss it out.
If I had a proper meal for lunch then I will often have a fairly small, light dinner. However if I had a snack I will have a proper meal.

I find the timings of my meals fairly important, usually eating breakfast very soon after waking and then dinner around 6ish. I like to snack and tend to find I have days where i pick at small meals throghout the day. Again, if i do this I won't then have big meals as this is just too much unessary food. My body likes it better when I don't snack frequently. And most low level activity days end up being breakfast and dinner. This means I usually don't end up eating between breakfast and dinner (about 8-10 hours) and then from dinner to breakfast the next day (about 14-16 hours). I find this has worked best for me. Somedays I'll have larger meals than others, sometimes smaller. The longest fast I've ever trialed was 22 hours long. I had a pretty big breakfast in the morning, skipped lunch and wasn't hungry when it came round to dinner. It was comfortable, I wasn't aching for any food particularly. When I woke up for breakfast the next day I was pretty up for eating and a full english ensued. I noticed that day I ate a fair bit more than I would in a normal day. However, I've only tried IF for a length of time such as this once. I think I'll have to experiment a bit more with it. I felt great after the 22 hours and food afterwards tasted amazing - whole renewed appreciation for it :)
I think incorporating this in once a week or so might be an idea but I'm pretty happy with my brekkie/ early dinner combo. Tends to work well for me. And I think I'd attempt the longer fast on a low activity day.

Anyway, those are a few short thoughts on IF.

Anybody out there tried fasting or IF? If so, how did it make you feel? Is it something you do regularly or something you would never consider?

To note again that I'm not a physician or nutritionist or the like and so what I write represents only the findings of my own reading and knowledge on the subject. I do not advocate or advise that any individual conforms to any type of activty/ diet which would adversely interefere with their lives if under specific circumstance eg those with eating disorders and the like. I only wish to share my own experiences in this area and encourage thinking outside the conventional box. Thank you.

Read more on IF...

Monday, 12 March 2012

Happy belated British Pie Week

Happy British pie week everyone!

I know, that much loved and acknowledged week... ok, so I had no clue there was a week dedicated to pies until I followed a link off my twitter yesterday and by then the week had already gone by, but no matter, pies aren't just for pie week.

With my tardiness in regards to British pie week I figured I'd post a super quick recipe so any fellow late comers can follow my lead and save a bit of time and pretend it's still last week :) So these are technically classed as tarts but hey, that counts right? I'm not going to start being a pie snob now.
My delightfully simple mini jam tart recipe...

Cooking the tart cases beforehand allows them to remain flaky before adding the jam. Make these tarts on the day you intend to eat them to make the most of the flaky cases. You can cook these in any mini tart cases or using the bottom of a cupcake case like I did with my new silicone cupcake cases, which I got as a small, out of the blue present. Love it.

Makes about 15 bitesize tart cases


100g ground almonds
1 tablespoon butter (room temperature - NOT melted)
1 tablespoon honey
Pinch salt

Refined sugar free jam - I use St. Dalfours no added sugar jam range. I usually use my favourite; strawberry (who doesn't love strawberry?!) however we only had blackcurrant hanging out in the cupboard which still tasted great so I shan't complain!

Make it happen;
  • Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius (fan assisted oven)
  • In a bowl measure out the ground almonds
  • Add the butter, honey and salt; a crumbly mixture should form so get your hands in there and squeeze the mixture together until it forms a dough
  • Roll out the dough and use a mini biscuit cutter to cut out tiny circular rounds
  • I placed the dough in the bottom of my cupcake moulds (shown above) and then pressed the tart circles until there's a small crust round the edges - if you have a mini cupcake pan or something similar then grease these with a little butter and use the same method
  • Bake these for about 5 minutes - they cook extremely quickly so keep an eye on them
  • Once cooked they'll be slightly golden brown - remove from the oven and allow to cool
  • Once cooled take a small teaspoon of jam and add to the centre of the mini tart case
  • Voila!
Did you do anything for British Pie week or like me, were you completely oblivious until afterwards?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Can't get enough of Birthdays!

For those of you who don't know (which I assume is the majority - I might be a little freaked out if I thought that the date of my mums birthday was universal knowledge) it's my mum's birthday this week. I know, our family is seriously making the most of Birthdays at the moment.

Another fact you may not know is that my mum is Polish. So naturally the fare of choice was of course Polish. However there is an extreme lack of Polish restaurants around so we had a bit of a hunt on our hands. Eventually we found one and booked a night out at Malina in London. Immediately impressed by their site and bowled over by their cute Marlina (translation; raspberry) logo and theme is wasn't even an option. We were so there.

And wow did it not disappoint!

Isn't that raspberry so cute?

I started the evening off with a bowl of Barszcz - a clear red beetroot soup. I love this clear broth. I chose the Barszcz ukraiński as I like the beetroot pieces in the broth.

The family ordered a plate of pierogi containing Mięso - meat (pork and beef) and Kapusta z Grzybami - cabbage and mushroom. I think I must have blinked at an inopportune moment because one second they were there and the next... well... not so much! As I am half polish I have a soft spot for these and so I couldnt pass up an opportunity to sneak one. Must have been the most savoured pierogi in the world. Meat pierogi are definitely best. No contest :)

Next was the main course. Oh yes, in traditional Polish style there's more. Always more!

Placki ziemniaczane

My famiy had Golabki - rolled meat with a bit of rice wrapped in cabbage leaves. Placki ziemniaczane; Like a potato pancake, this one had mushrooms and a wild mushroom sauce. Pork fillet in a mushroom sauce with roast potatoes.

Zrazy z kopytka

My dish of choice was "Zrazy"; a rolled rump of beef with onion, gherkin and bacon in a gorgeously thick gravy with a side of runner beans and kasha. The rolled beef was lovely, especially when the sharpness of a piece of hidden gherkin found you and the gravy was wonderfully rich. I left the Kasha as I filled my sneaky quota up with my pierogi and a shared side of Kopytka; polish gnocchi. These were gorgeous but I made sure to only eat a few. Definitely an infrequent indulgence for me. But they made me speechless they were so good and it made me smile :)

Bigos... we cleaned it out - all that was left was an empty bread shell

The family also shared a meal of Bigos; hunters stew - full of kielbasa and other sausages and sauerkraut. It came in a rustic bread bowl. However to use the cliche, " it's what inside that matters," I think this definitely applies here. We ignored the bread and went to town on the Bigos held within. I myself only had a tablespoon as however much I love sauerkraut it doesn't love me!

Just when we were about to roll ourselves home we got a little glass to send us on our way. Homemade Raspberry Vodka. I'm not an alcohol drinker by any strech of the imagination. I mean seriously, no joke, I can barely ever finish even half a glass of any type of alcohol. I just don't like it. Doesn't make me feel good and on the whole doesn't taste good so I don't subscribe. However I am such a sucker for unique food/drink experiences so anything homemade or something im not going to get in a supermarket, I have to try... at least a tiny bit. With this I was pleasantly suprised. It was amazing! It was like raspberry syrup. Thick and sweet with the obligatory kick from the vodka - soooo nice! Despite this I STILL only managed a quarter of a way down this glass. See what I mean!

Sto lat mum! x

So moral of the story, my mum had a lovely time and I'm just hoping for another Birthday to crop up soon! :)


Saturday, 3 March 2012

Book version no. 2

Lo and behold, the paperback version cometh!

For those of you who haven't read my previous first post on the release of my hardback book here is the photo again...


So yes. The paperback copy is avaliable now from here and also (US). It will be avaliable in the UK for preorder in a week or so but if you want to get your hands on it now then follow the link above and you can order it using paypal.

I had a lovely comment the other day from someone who had already tried out my (grain free) tabletop bread from my book and said that her and her husband ate the whole thing in one night. It's so funny to hear from people who use my recipes - I love it, makes my day! :)

Also as a side note... I've just started a facebook page - so come and like me or poke me or whatever the facebook protocol is nowadays (showing my technological competence right there)!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Birthday time!

This year brought around a milestone birthday for me. Nothing particular happened on the actual day itself and work pretty much dominated as usual but with the prospect of a dinner out in the evening I couldn't complain too much. We all went out to CAU. Gosh I love that place! Sausages, ribs, sweet potato and chorizo salad? What more could I ask for?

Back at home I recieved a couple of presents, a book from a friend (I'm getting through it slowly - it's a heavy volume and I have 3 books presently on the go. I know; bad habit but I want to read them all and couldn't choose which to start first.) A lovely dress as a joint present from my sisters, lovely cards etc. My parents were the last to give me a card which informed me that I was going on a birthday weekend the next day. It was such a lovely suprise!

The next day I caught the train to Bath and had a wonderful weekend away, just wandering around and enjoying the unexpected beautiful weather.

So Gorgeous!! :D

I even got a chance to wear the dress my sisters gave me, out one night for dinner. <3

Completely in love with that dress. It's a problem!

As well as being in a gorgeous place and having spent my birthday in wonderful company, this birthday also meant a lot to me on another level. It's the first birthday I've had where I haven't had to be concious of health restrictions. Not once did I think, " If I walk there will I have enough energy to get back?" or having to constantly worry about having to lie down or take time out. Pain didn't rear it's ugly head and I was able to smile and enjoy my weekend for the entire duration. This may seem like a very normal weekend for most, but for me, having to lie down and rest for most of the day, only managing to pop out occasionally for a short drive, a year or two ago was the norm. Being able to walk wherever I wanted for however long I wanted all day was a pipedream. One I never thought I'd be able to experience again. Let alone feel great! :)