Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Colourful Spring Salad

The thing I’m liking the most about my new diet is how bright and colourful the inside of my fridge looks. It’s full of greens and purples, yellows and oranges, reds and even more greens. And I like knowing that every bit of that food is going to be eaten. Nothing will go to waste. Because my veg is carefully chosen to go well with both lunches and dinners.

I love raw veg in a salad. A crunchy carrot, and sugarsnap peas that I can’t help but snack on because it’s too hard not to. A new favourite of mine is red cabbage. I love the texture of raw red cabbage, and equally love the colour it brings to a dish.

On Saturday afternoon, I whipped up a salad with something of almost every colour in my fridge. Red cabbage, celery, radishes, apple (don't forget the apple) and carrot, topped with toasted nuts and seeds and dressed in olive oil, lemon and a dash of honey. There was a lot. So much, in fact, that I couldn’t eat a plate of it, but I had a lot of fun in trying.

There is something so satisfying seeing a plate of colours. Particularly when you know that a variety of colours means that it’s very healthy indeed. I can think of nothing worse than a plate of beige food.

It’s deliciously crunchy and full of flavour. I imagine it would be an excellent addition to a summer barbeque – a sort of coleslaw without the mayonnaise.

I’m on the lookout for super healthy and delicious salads that I can take to work. If you know of any, please let me know!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash & Rocket Salad

I think the thing I'm finding most interesting with my new diet is that for the first time, I'm actively looking in the fridge to see what I can whip up with what is in there.

Since my weekend away, I haven't been shopping and usually that means I end up picking something up from the supermarket on the way home. But that's not really an option now, as they don't have anything I can eat - so it's off to the fridge to find something interesting.

I had a butternut squash and some spinach, rocket & watercress salad leftover from last night's pancake day feast. A quick google and I found some recipes that looked good. Although I didn't have the feta cheese, nor the puy lentils that some asked for (which made me think that I needed to get some in for back-up), I got to work roasting the squash with some chili flakes.

I made a dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and tamari. I didn't measure - just threw it in to taste. Then lightly toasted some pine nuts and seeds that I had in the cupboard, chopped up some spring onions and popped it all on a plate.

The result was a beautifully light dish. Perfect for me, though Matt did say he needed a bit more to fill him up. We came to the conclusion that next time I made it, he could have a steak on the side. Which is fine by me because even though I do love the taste of a good steak, the thought of one sitting heavily inside me really doesn't fill me with pleasure at the moment.

I will definitely be making this again. Especially for lunch. Mmmmm.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pancakes!

Pancake Day. Possibly one of my favourite evenings as a child. Our kitchen table would be full to the brim with jacket potatoes and salad, and my mother would stand by the cooker, handing out pancakes as soon as they had cooked. We’d start with galettes filled with ham, cheese & tomato, and chicken in a white sauce.

Then once we’d eaten about 3 of those each, we’d start on the sweet pancakes. The potatoes and salad would be switched with mountains of sweet treats. Lemon and sugar, toffee sauce, maple syrup, jam, chocolate spread, bananas and ice cream. We’d have to have at least one pancake of each and I vividly remember my brother filling a pancake with huge amounts of chocolate ice cream, pouring out at the sides.

I love traditions like this. Traditions that bring back fond memories and ones which we try to re-create as we get older.

Last year, I held a pancake day party. But it failed miserably because other people aren’t fun. All the girls bailed on me, and all the boys arrived late – having already eaten. Great. This year I wanted it to be just me and Matt having fun in the kitchen. But he got distracted by a film on TV and it wasn’t really as ‘fun’ as I’d have hoped. Instead, I get told that he doesn’t really like savoury pancakes. Why didn’t I know this before I got all the stuff?!

But food wise – the pancakes were a success. This was my first time making them with soya milk and the first time using gluten-free flour. And they were a hit! The sweet pancakes took on a yellow tinge thanks to the milk, but they tasted great. I wasn’t too sure about the ‘cheese’ I bought – but it was alright enough. The Vegan hazelnut chocolate spread was gorgeous, and the dairy free ice cream was incredibly tasty. I moved away from traditional lemon and sugar, and delve into a plate of banana, raspberries and ice-cream.

Despite my shockingly poor effort to plan for this year’s pancake day (instead of having a trial run to make sure I could actually make them properly) they were a success! Proof to me that I don’t need dairy and normal flour to make good pancakes. My next task is now to adapt Nigella’s pancake mix so I can always have some in a container ready to whip up at a moment’s notice on a Sunday morning. Pancake’s aren’t just for one day of the year – we all need a treat every now and again!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Katie's Hen Party

At 24, I have only now began the stage in my life where Hen Parties will be frequent. In just a few weeks, 3 couples I know have got engaged, and 2 others will be married this year. This weekend I attended my first Hen Party – and I had a fantastic time.

Fizz on arrival, a Cocktail Making Class, vodka punch and even more fizz, then a night out on the tiles for some dancing. Can you see the day revolves around what we drank?? We drank… a lot. But I stopped drinking at 8.30pm when we actually ventured out into the City so by the time we got home I had sobered up a remarkable amount and had spent a grand total of £5.10. Brilliant.

The party was hosted by on girl in particular, but the rest of us all chipped in. We all paid £20 for the cocktail-making class, and each provided either a selection of food, drink, decorations etc. I provided music – which was awesome as it was simply a matter of putting fun music on an iPod. I got that because I was already spending a bit to actually travel the 300 miles back north for this party – so if you’re attending something where you’re all chipping in as well as travelling - it's worth mentioning it to the host to see if they can be nice and give you something purse-friendly to chip in with!

Katie looked very happy with her Cosmopolitan in hand.

The party got behind the bar for a celebratory pose!

And showing our drunken state, Mandy thought it would be funny to shove her hand in my face when taking a nice photo.

As for food while I was there? While they were tucking into pizza, I made Alicia Silverstone's Vegan Nachos and Bean dip with Guacamole. It went down a storm and others were tucking in, too! (though I didn't tell them it was vegan & gluten free - these Northern birds would scoff at me!) The morning after we all headed off to a pub in search of some breakfast. The rest of the gang tucked into a full English breakfast. Me? I went with a fruit salad and orange juice. And I can tell you that I felt better than the lot of them for it!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

A Pretty Teacup

I've picked up another cup. Yes, this new tea cup joins the Thursday's Child mug in a bid to start my own cup 'collection'. It looks pretty. Very pretty. In fact, when I have more I shall very much want to serve tea in them as I'm sure they'll bring a smile to a guest's face (or is that just me being a bit odd?)

This teacup is one of a set of 3. This was the only one on sale in Bert's Homestore in Hove - but I'm sure I've seen others in their store in Hove. I will get them all! They're a set from dotcomgiftshop and if I can't find them in Bert's, I'll just order them online.

Along with the high tea cake stand! How utterly adorable is this?!

It's £3 cheaper in Berts, and I wouldn't have to spend on postage. But still, it's almost £30 and I'm not quite ready to part with that amount of money just for a cake stand... although I think I might be swayed once I get round to making these ah-may-zing looking cupcakes from GlutenFreeGoddess. She's got an entire section dedicated to gluten-free vegan recipes and I'm having so much fun reading through them all. So pretty cupcakes need somewhere pretty to be displayed.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Hi there!

I thought it was probably about time that I actually introduced myself. You know, properly.

I’m a Northern sprite at heart, but moved to the South Coast of England, to Brighton, back in the summer of 2009, and in that time I’ve already lived in 2 apartments.

The first was great – it was my first place with my other half, Matthew, and it will always have a special place in our hearts – but it was nothing compared to what we have now.

Thanks to a bit of snobbery about where we’d live, and a nice dollop of good luck, we landed with an absolutely gorgeous apartment in an old Victorian Mansion on a street lined with trees. We are just a hop and a skip away from the beach, but don’t have to hear those pesky seagulls on a daily basis. We live within walking distance to the town, but a 5 minute walk to the nearest train station and a 1 minute walk to the nearest bus stop.

Our neighbours are fantastic and our landlord is a gem. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to live the life we lead – but it’s not out of reach for anyone. We work hard, and penny pinch harder – but we still give the impression that we have more than we do.

As my other half is still a student, we’ve had to live on one salary. And not a great one at that. We don’t shop for clothes that often, and we almost never go out partying. Instead we spend on things that can benefit us in the long term – like a piece of furniture, good food, and quality skin-care.

I’ve not been a very healthy person. For the past 6 years my health has been a constant burden. I had headaches almost every day for 3 years. Then I had tendonitis in my wrist. I had an operation to remove an abscess and managed to get phlebitis – the vein running down my right arm completely emptied and I couldn’t straighten my arm for weeks. In October 2009 my knees gave way and I was out of work for 2 months – and then in September 2010 I had the worst abdominal pain I had ever experienced. Needless to say I started to question not only my overall health, but the competency of every doctor I had seen who refused to look at all of these problems as related issues.

And then I went to see a doctor. The best doctor I have ever seen in my entire life. Doctor Barker – the woman who saved me. Her no-nonsense approach to diagnosing me was incredible. She asked me every question under the sun and wouldn’t rest until she understood ‘why’.

My father was diagnosed with Coeliac’s Disease 20 years ago. I grew up eating an almost gluten-free diet, with the exception of bread, pasta and cakes in small quantities. My family weren’t big on ready meals and my Mum cooked a well-balanced meal every evening. I’d been tested for Coeliac’s before but the tests always came back negative. I explained this to my doctor. She told me that due to the low intake of gluten in my diet, it was likely that it spiked levels high enough to be detected in a blood test. Seeing as Dad has Coeliac’s and it’s genetic – add that to my surname (clearly I had Irish heritage – where Coeliac’s is most common) and bam – that was probably the root of all my problems.

Rather than being tested again, I was told to try it out. To go Gluten-Free for a month to see how I felt - and I was blown away by what happened. I started to feel better. I didn’t constantly feel sick or sluggish and I felt well for the first time since I could remember.

Of course I slipped up at first. After the initial month I ate a pizza to see how I felt and I did feel awful afterwards. But although it proved to me that I’d feel a lot better if I stayed off the gluten, the cakes occasionally tempted me. And I wouldn’t be happy afterwards. But I began to become more in control of my cravings and now I don’t even bat an eyelid. In fact, I look at it as if it were poison.

However – the feeling of well-being was short-lived. I felt great for the first few months, but in January I started getting more pains. Clearly I wasn’t being as good as I should be. Sure, I wasn’t eating gluten any more – but was a substituting bad food for good food? No. I took out what was making me ill, but I never once thought that I should add something to make me better. And then I read a book that changed me.

I became vegan the day after. 90% vegan. I still eat fish, eggs and honey. But I have cleansed myself of dairy and meat and I feel incredible.

It’s quite a strange feeling to become vegan without doing it for animal-rights reasons. People automatically assume that I’m a hippy (my dreadlocks probably don’t help this connotation either) and want to ‘save the world’. I also live in Brighton – the only contingency in the whole of the UK with a Green MP – but although that might just add to the ‘hippy’ idea, it also means I live in a great place to find great vegan food.

So food is a big thing for me to blog about. But I also love crafts and design. You may have noticed at the beginning of this (incredibly long) post that I love my apartment, and I try my very hardest to make it as beautiful as I can – with as little money as I can. I renovate as much as I am allowed in a rented property, and I decorate with colours. I’ve never been a fan of brown, white, beige colour schemes and to me, minimalism shows a lack of character depth.

I read lots and lots of blogs to help me with my inspiration and I have been known to copy one or two ideas I have found. Sometimes I like to have something that’s unique. Something I want something that is quick and cheap (I have a lot of Ikea things) but the main thing to me is that it looks more expensive and luxurious than it was. I have a deception of wealth because I know how to show it.

So welcome to my blog. I hope you will find inspiration, information and ideas. I’m all about making you the best person you can be when it comes to yourself and your surroundings.

Please come and say Hi.
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