Menu Planner – DIY

I’ve always been one to plan my weekly meals. It saves thinking when I’m tired after work and saves money as I buy what we need and don’t waste too much stuff.

My pad of  blank menus was coming to an end, so I though I’d look and see if there was an alternative way of doing it. I found this idea on Pinterest and decided to have a go. The idea is that it’s re-useable and having the ingredients on the back should help with planning a shopping list. Sounded good to me!

So here is my version.  I ususally put my menus on the fridge so I used an old magnetic board I happened to have, covered it with handmade paper and re-purposed an old box and added it  to the bottom to hold the spare cards that I’m not using that week.

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The cards are colour coded:

Red = red meat

Green = Vegetarian

Blue = Fish

White = Chicken

Yellow = Eating Out/Special Occasion

On one side they have the meal, the other has the ingredients needed as well as the recipe book it comes from- simple!

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We’ll see how well it works this week.

Coconut Yogurt – Finally!!!

I’ve been trying to make my own coconut yogurt for an age. I’ve read so many recipes on Pinterest and tried numerous different ways and it’s never worked until now!

While I love the shop bought COYO brand, it’s SO expensive at £1.99 for a small 125g tub or £2.99 for a 250g one. It’s a treat. I wanted to create something I could be a bit more generous with myself with and not limit it to a spoonful at a time.

I’ve gone down the route of  heating it until a precise temperature and letting it cool and then adding the content of pro-biotic capsules, but that was a dismal failure. The top gained pink mould, probably due to my not cleaning things well enough to stop the bad bacteria setting in.

So I decided to keep it simple.  Forget the probiotic capsules (for the moment) and the thermometer and head for the shop bought option. While £2 for a pot of yogurt is pricey when you’re eating it, using it as a starter seemed a good option seeing as the special ‘vegan’ ones seem to be impossible to get in the UK and then even more expensive. Some people have said that this method doesn’t work, but I seem to have been successful with it.

Ingredients:

1 x  400ml tin coconut milk

2 tablespoons Coyo coconut yogurt. Like this one I use this or the 125g size

1/2 sachet gelatin, made up according to instructions (this makes it NOT vegan, but you could try agar flakes. I haven’t ventured down this road as I eat meat so it doesn’t worry me)

All I did was literally mix it all together in yogurt maker container and then put it on for AT LEAST 24 hours. It did separate in that time (see picture) but I just stirred it.IMG_1271IMG_1272

After 24 hours, I gave it a good stir and put it in the fridge overnight. This allows the gelatin to set.

Some might say it’s a little like jelly, but I’m happy with it.

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I’d really like to get it to work with tapioca starch as then it would be vegan and I’d not worry so much about the source of the gelatin, but that’s an experiment for another time. If anyone has tips, please do share.

Still Walking…

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I can’t believe it’s been so many months since I posted anything. And getting back into it is H-A-R-D!

I’ve been trying to think of the ‘perfect’ post as a comeback to regular writing and colclude that there relly isn’t one. I just need to get back to it and keep moving forwards.
I have so much I can write about that I stall. I need to write simply as well as trying to embrace simplicity in my general lifestyle!
So there. Break over. Back to it. Keep walking…simply!

Smile

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I got into trouble once when a customer was making a complaint to me. They thought I wasn’t taking them seriously because I was smiling. (Not true!)

 

I’ve found a smile is powerful.

 

Sometimes I make myself smile even when I don’t feel like it and it somehow makes me feel better.

 

I often find people smiling at me in the street. I think I must inadvertently look like I’m smiling half the time. I’ll bet sometime it’s a grimace, but I like it when they return the smile anyway. It makes me joyful.

 

Maybe try deliberately be extra smiley sometime in the next few days… see what happens.

Time to Write

 

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I aim to write for 30 minutes a day. So far, I’ve not managed it. And I’m annoyed about that. I keep thinking of things I want to write about and then not getting round to doing it. I’ve baked things and forgotten to take photos.

 

I want to write in order to share and also to get better at it. I don’t think I should beat myself up about it, and maybe I should enjoy being in the moment of things, but I’d like to be just a little more consistent.

 

Any tips from bloggers out there?!

Caught in a Hurry

 

It happened almost as soon as I tried to turn out of my road on my bike. I’d chosen peak time to try and get out and as soon as I joined the main flow of traffic I felt like I was in a rush – I wasn’t. Again, as I hit the railway station, there were dozens of people all with heads down and coffee in hand, hurrying to the train. I could almost feel my breathing becoming quicker as I got caught up in the hurry of a commuter’s day.

 

I had to stop myself from getting caught up in it.

 

So easy to be caught, it’s almost unconscious.

 

I cycled deliberately slower and slowed my breathing right down. I wasn’t in a hurry; I didn’t have a strict time deadline. But I got caught up in the pressure of others.

 

How?

 

And how can I avoid it?

 

This is what I pondered as I swam, and even in the pool I was having to remind myself that it wasn’t a race to get to 2000m and if I didn’t make it before I did need to get out and pootle to school – that was ok!!

 

I think being aware of it is half the battle. I knew I was being caught, so could grab on to the metaphorical post and slow myself down. I’ve been trying to be more ‘mindful’ of late. Deliberately slowing down if I feel myself speeding up. Taking 5 deep breaths and just being aware of my breathing as I do it. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Relax

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So the summer holidays have come to an end. What have I learnt about relaxation? Well, I already knew that I found it hard, and this summer has probably taught me that it’s a choice I make and that I need to be pro-active about engaging in relaxation.

This may sound like a contradiction, but in order to relax, I often find it easier to ‘do’ something. To do something that I find relaxing helps me to find a place of relaxation better than if I do nothing.

So what do I do?

Cooking and baking feature highly on my list. I find there’s something intensely relaxing about pottering in the kitchen and creating something that can then be enjoyed by people. Add a good few tunes and I’m happy. Discovering a new recipe that is all ‘free from’ friendly gives me great pleasure.

Knitting is also an activity of relaxation for me. I find it next to imposiible to simply sit and watch TV, so knitting enables my hands to be doing something whilst I watch a film or programme. Added bonus is that I create something… hmmm, I’m spotting a theme here! My latest creation is arm extentions for a fleece that wasn’t quite long enough for my gangly limbs – mmmm, cosy.

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In additon to knitting, I’m learning to crochet at the moment. This, however, could not be classed as  ‘relaxing’  yet as I get so frustrated when I do it wrong  and undo it all- which is frequently!! I’m sure it will gain relaxation status in the future as my skills improve.

I’m sure there’s more things if I thought about it some more.

What do you do to relax?

 

 

Why I Quit Sugar

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It seems to be the latest ‘evil’ in the media, with voices from all around telling us we should eat less of the stuff… but why?

 

I gave up sugar a little while before it grabbed the media’s attention, but I’ve been slow to quit it. I thought I had a pretty healthy diet, but was surprised by how much sugar I consumed when I began to look at it.

 

I think it was a sort of psychological substitute. As I can’t have gluten, I’d almost reach for other sugary things that I could eat. I couldn’t have the cake, but I could have a meringue or a lovely packet of Haribo Tangtastics (other jelly sweets are equally to blame!)

 

I started to investigate the sugar thing when my mum was diagnosed with cancer and we begun to look at how diet could help with her treatment and in fighting the disease naturally.

 

WHOAH, it’s a HUGE topic.

 

I’m not an expert and certainly do not have all the answers. I only know the conclusion I came to for the situation our family was in based on what I read extensively both in book form and on the internet.

 

I’m not here to preach about what’s right, I wanted to merely share some of the sources I used and then if it makes sense to you and you want to try it – for whatever reason- sure, give it a go.

 

Initially, my reasoning was that if mum was going to go through treatment and having to drastically change the way she ate and give up a whole load of stuff, I wanted to share in that journey, even a little bit, by giving up sugar in solidarity with her. It’s turned out that it’s been good for my health too – bonus!

 

The most influential sources for me have been Chris Woolam’s ‘The Rainbow Diet’ and Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar.‘ These are the two sources that I kept going back to time and again to check things or clarify details.

 

I found Chris Woolam’s book informative and scientifically based, using his background in biochemistry. It was a thorough summary of many options for natural or alternative treatment, written in a way that could easily be understood by a non-scientifically minded person like myself -someone seeking the best way forward when faced with a sea of options.

 

The message I kept hearing was ‘cancer cells need sugar to survive. Starve them of it and you’ll be helping to slow down the advancement of the disease, if not reverse it’. Worth a try.

The more I read, the more I think that there’s just no need for any of us to consume the amount of refined sugar we do.

Historically, fruit was scarce and was rarely eaten, except when it was found in abundance in the environment. Then it was gorged on and is apparently, according to Sarah Wilson of ‘I Quit Sugar’, the reason we have no ‘I’ve had enough’ gene when it comes to the sugary sweet stuff and eat it to excess.

 

In modern history, we ate a mere 2kg sugar a year in 1700. By 1900, this had sky-rocketed to 41kg. In today’s society, we consume approximately 82kg a year, more than our body weight – Crazy! (source: Wellness Mama)

 

I don’t want to eat so much of something I don’t need. So I stopped – gradually. It’s very hard to avoid. Turn over the ingredients label and you’ll see it’s everywhere. From the obvious cakes and biscuits to the hidden sugars in sauces and condiments. I’m an avid label reader. For me, anything over 5g sugar per 100g is out.

 

What about fruit? Is the question most people ask. Personally, I eat a little fruit, mainly berries and other lower fructose fruit. Having said that, I do eat bananas which are high in sugar, but where I’d formerly put a whole one on my breakfast, I now put a few slices. I know people who eat no fruit and others who eat it freely. I don’t eat dried fruit either – sugar per 100g is too high. I also try not to have substitutes like honey or maple syrup but I’m not religious about it. I use rice syrup if I need a sweetener. I tried Stevia but the powdered stuff was simply horrid. The disgusting aftertaste was most unpleasant.

 

The fruit/honey/maple syrup thing may change in the future. I don’t think those alternatives are as bad as refined sugar, but that’s where I am for now. The white (or brown) stuff is out – for good.

Millet Porridge

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I was really annoyed when I was told that I could no longer have oats as part of my diet. I’ve been gluten-free for about 10 years, and all that time I’ve been able to tolerate oats. About a year ago I started to feel unwell again and my nutritionist and I pinned it down to oats.

BOOO!!! What was I supposed to have for breakfast now?! I pretty much had porridge every day.

Since then, I’ve been trying to widen my menu for breakfast as I’m a bit of a ‘have the same thing every day’ girl and I’ve read that this can be not so great for you, so I decided to try and jazz it up a bit.

I’ve made my own refined sugar-free granola (more on that another time) but I was in need of something comforting and warming one day.

I came across the idea of using millet instead of oats and it worked. I used this recipe from Naturally Ella but without the strawberries. I also halved it to make enough for just me, although you could do double and heat it up the next day as it does take a bit of time to make.

I used:

1/2 cup millet

2 cups of coconut milk (or any dairy free milk I have –  carton not tinned stuff) I found it drinks up the liquid so be prepared to add more as it cooks.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (adds a little sweetness without the sugar)

I simply ground the millet in my Nutribullet (any food processor will do) so that it was half ground, half whole and then toasted it in the pan for a few mins. I then added the coconut milk and kept stirring. I have attempted to do my morning yoga whilst leaving this to cook but I don’t recommend it – I nearly burnt the pan dry! One task at a time!!!

It takes about 15-20 mins to cook, but do keep an eye on it. A little while to wait but worth it I think.

I’m interested to try porridge with other grains/seeds. Anyone tried Amaranth or teff or even quinoa?

SLOW

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As I bustled out of the gym, hurrying to be on my way to something else, I glanced over at the group of older ladies all chatting and laughing over coffee.

 

It got me thinking.

 

Often, when I think about going slower, I think of the elderly. For whatever reason, whether it’s because they physically can’t go fast or whether they’ve learnt to appreciate the benefits of ‘slow’ in a life well lived, there’s a lot to learn from them.

 

I don’t mean this in a patronising way, but in a genuine sense that we have a lot to learn from those who have gone before us. Many folks who are a generation or two older than me seem, at least on the surface, to appreciate what it means to take time over something, to be with people and to really savour their company while you are with them.

 

Making bread has taught me to be patient. You can’t hurry it. It needs time for the yeast to penetrate through the batch. Maybe that’s why I’m getting into it at this stage, I need to learn to be slower, to take time allowing things to permeate and marinate with me.

 

I’ve been deliberately trying to walk more slowly. I’ve been trying to look less hurried when in shops or on the streets and am preparing myself to engage with people who are maybe looking at the same thing I am in a shop or waiting in the same place that I find myself. I’m trying to be available. I’m excited to think of the people I may speak to or the conversations I may have because of these choices.

 

A phrase popped into my mind as I was chewing this over;

 

TAKE TIME, MAKE TIME.

 

I think the fullness of what this means may become move evident in due course, but in its simplest form, I want to take time over things and people more and make time to do things and be with people.