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Author Archives: lydiasherlock

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Estrella has got a new home. New design, new posts, it’s all go! Pop on over to www.estrellashine.blogspot.com to see the new blog and say hi!

See you there x

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Farmers market rice salad

When I worked full time I used to visit a farmer’s market close to where I worked. I’d always go and lunchtime and pick up a rice salad from Natural Vitality, who sell organic dips and salads.

I’ve not had one for years but randomly started thinking about this delicious little pot of healthy goodness recently and today had a go at replicating it.

It wasn’t as good, I’ll happily admit that but all the same it was delicious and perfect to pack in a little tub and take to work, as I have done today. Sorry for the rubbishy iPhone pic by the way, I’m camera-less at work.

Serves 2, you will need:

150g Brown/wholegrain rice
Handful dried apricots, chopped
Handful dates, chopped
Handful cashews
Handful mixed seeds
Large handful parsley, finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes

1. Cook the rice according to the pack instructions
2. When the rice is cooked, drain and add the remaining ingredients
3. Give it a good old stir, allow to cool and enjoy!

Shake it

I totally feel as if I may go off on a tangent during this post, as I so often do when talking about exercise (it’s been my job for 12 years, I have alot to say). I’ll try to stay on topic, please forgive me if I stray slightly.

So yes, exercise. I am currently doing alot of the stuff. My first sun holiday since my honeymoon 7 years ago, not to mention my first time in a bikini since having two babies (eek!) has made me ramp up my efforts in the last few months.

A general week will include cycling 15 miles to work and back twice a week, a 3 mile run, a Body Attack class and 2 weights sessions. I combine the run with a weights session so I’m at the gym 2-3 times a week.

Now, I’ve been eating ‘clean’ (foods in their natural state i.e. unprocessed) as much as possible a while now (bar a weekend vino or, erm, five and the odd cakey/chocolatey treat thrown in) which has helped with a good amount of fat loss but I want to now ‘sculpt’ and work on my Jenifer Aniston arms (sigh).

As much as I try I don’t think I’m getting enough protein in my diet to fuel the amount of exercise I do. I’m not a massive meat-eater as mentioned in my last post and though I get ample protein to hit the RDA through pulses, grains and nuts, I think I just need a little extra to aid recovery and allow for muscle repair.

So, I read Nicola’s blog with interest this week on Bio-Synergy’s range of sports nutrition for women. I’ve always poo-pooed the idea of supplementation, believing that we can get everything we need from our diet but since upping the ante on my training I’m finding myself constantly hungry and having to fight the urge as I try to lose fat.

Also, I train early in the mornings. I leave the house often before 6:30am and even I (greedy) can’t face breakfast early enough to digest it for this time. After reading the gumpf on the products I wonder if a protein-based drink before I train could make a difference to not only my performance but also how fast I recover.

A product which caught my eye is their Activate powder, a protein-based shake which provides slow-burning energy, some essential vitamins and minerals and that all-important protein (which promotes satiety). Recommended use is before a workout or between meals when the hunger pangs strike. So far, sounding so good.

So I ordered me a tub of Activate and await my delivery with anticipation as to whether it makes a difference or not. What say you, readers? Has anyone tried supplementation? I’d love to hear your experiences as I envision myself swanning around Barcelona, svelte (ha!) and tanned (sunburned) enjoying the results (please?) of this (bloody) hard work.

Squash & Chickpea Stew

My carnivorous husband tolerates our mostly-veggie meals. We only have meat a few times a week, partly because I want to eat good meat and couldn’t afford to do so every night but mostly because there are so many meat-free recipes out there which are so healthy. High in nutrients, packed with protein and low in saturated fat, this is one I did for the first time tonight and is definitely a keeper.

It’s taken from a recipe in the River Cottage Veg Every Day book. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, it took me about half an hour to prepare and is dead simple.

You will need:
2 Tbsp oil
2 Onions, diced
1 Stalk of celery, finely diced
1 Tsp ground black pepper
1 Tsp Turmeric
Half tsp ground ginger
Half tsp ground cinnamon
100g red lentils
Tin chickpeas
8 Saffron strands, toasted and crushed (I just chucked mine in non-toasted, sorry Hugh)
500ml Passata
Handful chopped fresh parsley
Handful chopped fresh coriander
300g Squash or pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and chopped into large cubes
1.2l Veg stock
1 Bay leaf
50g Orzo

1. Heat the oil and cook the onions until soft
2. Turn down the heat and add the spices, garlic and celery. Cook for a few minutes
3. Add the lentils, chickpeas, saffron, passata and fresh herbs
4. Cook on low for about 15 mins (I added a bit of water at this point as it started sticking)
5. Add the squash or pumpkin and bay leaf
6. Cover and simmer for 30 mins
7. Add the orzo and simmer until cooked
8. Season, serve and enjoy!

Pimp my living room

I sigh a great big shallow sigh. I want to redecorate my living room but don’t know where to start or what I really want it to look like. Plus, um, I have no money so am kinda stuck.

This is how it looks now…

Excuse my cub glued to The Lion King 🙂

So yeah, it’s pretty small and after 6 years, 2 children and a big smelly dog, in need of a bit of TLC. I’ve wasted spent the morning on Pinterest browsing some beautiful looking rooms looking for inspiration. A Lust List will shortly follow featuring objects (and rooms) of my desire.

So, Living Room Fairy, if you’re reading, please pay me a visit and bring me the room of my dreams. For free.

Cake Club: Healthy(ish) Malt Loaf

Months ago, when Andy was feeling poorly my Mum gave me a jar of Malt Extract for him. She’d bought it on a nostalgic whim remembering how her own Mother would line her and her brother up for their daily dose, as was the trend in post-war Britain, as a cheap dose of nutrients for Fifties’ children. A spoonful in, however and the vile taste diminished her rose-tinted memories and the actual memory of being forced to down spoonfuls of this thick, disgusting elixir hastily found the jar heading our way. Thanks, Mum.

Needless to say Andy never did dare take any (have you smelt it?) and it’s been lurking at the back of the cupboard with the rice vinegar and green teabags (swamp juice) ever since.

My endless quest for healthy snacks to give my kids, and with the days of creating interesting and nutritious lunchboxes on the horizon saw me seeking out malt loaf recipes. A click on to the failsafe BBC Good Food site led me to a recipe and FINALLY I could make use of this hideous goo and make it into something nice.

It’s turned out a treat. A big hit with the kids, it’s a-sponge-which-thinks-it’s-a cake-but-is not-actually-a-cake. It contains a considerable amount less sugar and no fat (bar the eggs, but that’s minimal). Give it a go, it’s gooey, sticky and great spread with butter. Everything a malt loaf should be.

You will need:

150ml hot black tea
175g malt extract (sold in health food shops)
85g dark muscovado sugar
300g mixed dried fruit (I only had sultanas)
2 large eggs, beaten
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Half tsp bicarbonate of soda

1. Heat oven to 150c/130 fan/gas 2 and line 2 1lb loaf tins
2. Add the tea, fruit, malt extract and sugar to a bowl and stir well
3. Mix in the beaten eggs
4. Tip in the flour, quickly followed by the baking powder and bicarb
5. Stir well and pour into the prepared tins
6. Bake for 50 mins until firm and well-risen
7. Remove from tins and cool

The recipe says to then wrap and keep for 2-5 days before eating as it becomes more sticky but really, who can wait that long? We tucked in as soon as it was cool enough for the butter not to melt and it was perfect. A definite lunchbox thumbs up.

N.B. I don’t have 1lb loaf tins so just did the whole thing in a 2lb tin. I baked at 140c (fan oven) for 1hr 20 mins

To sleep or not to sleep?

Um, not, in our case.

When Max was a baby we co-slept for a month or so as he wouldn’t go in his Moses basket and it made for lazy easy feeding in the foggy first weeks.

Since then he’s never slept in our bed, something we’ve actually been quite pleased about as we went though a spell of major problems with Finn after he was ill, slept in our bed for ages (comfort for him, peace of mind for us) then we had HUGE problems trying to get him back into bed. It resulted in very little sleep (me) and loads of tears (both of us).

Buuuut…When Max and I were ill last month, we slipped into the habit of sleeping together. He was so poorly he just wasn’t settling so it made sense to have him in with me as he just wanted cuddles the whole time. To be fair, I was feeling rough and that’s all I wanted too (apart from paracetamol, ibubrofen, Vicks Sinex and Beechams. Quite a cocktail) so we enjoyed a few weeks of restful nights snuggled in together.

Sure, he looks cute. Not so much at 2am with feet in your ribs.

Now, however, it’s not so enjoyable. He’s going to sleep fine in his own bed but sneaks in, ninja-style in the dead of night. The proceeds to kick, punch, squash and duvet-hog for the remainder of the night. The time has come to get him sleeping all night in his own bed again but how, without the trauma we had with Finn?

I’ve had a few good suggestions on Twitter which I’ll try but does anyone else have ideas for no-cry solutions? I’d love to hear from you if you’ve had a similar experience. My sanity depends on it.