Sunday, 27 March 2016

A very Good Friday and Rose and Lemon low carb cocktails



Happy Easter! It's Easter Sunday today and I'm sitting enjoying a cup of coffee while Mr Vatkinary is still in bed and thought I'd share a few bits from the weekend so far. We were both off on Friday (Good Friday) and the weather was beautiful, the nicest day of the year so far. We spent most of the day outside, me playing with my new Spring flowers that are popping up daily, and him slightly ruining things by noisily flying a drone above my head- a birthday present from last weekend that he's still trying to master flying! 

I have been loving the new Lorina Zero Rose lemonade that I found last week, it has barely any carbs at all and has such a nice flavour so I set about thinking about some low carb cocktails/ mocktails that I could use it in. Eventually I settled on a good one that was so refreshing, and so easy that it's barely even a cocktail, so I thought I must share, as I want a little permanent reminder of it for my own sake apart from anything else. 




You will need- makes two:
  • Sugar free rose lemonade- I used the Lorina Rose zero but if you can't find this, any would do
  • One lemon
  • Two measures of vodka
  • One egg white
  • Some edible flowers to garnish- optional 
Then pop the vodka, lemon juice and egg white into a cocktail mixer and shake well. Pour the lemonade into your glasses, pour the cocktail mix over the top, stir and enjoy! These work just as well without the vodka as mocktails. The egg white creates a sort of foam on the top of the cocktail that had mostly gone by the time I got round to taking the photos! It's again optional, but does make the cocktail feel a little bit more special!

We decanted outside, first time we'd sat outside this year, and sipped alternately on these as well as mint juleps (recipe to come soon) and coffee, and took some snacking bits out- namely nuts, halloumi and cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper.



After a few hours we went for a walk, going past the Rapeseed fields which are just about to pop



Later in the afternoon we ventured to Berkhamsted for a few hours and had a wander along the canal. As we arrived there were lots of hot air balloons in the sky, also taking advantage of the good weather so we sat and had a drink and watched them go over, they were so low down you could literally see the people inside!

Such a lovely day, I hope you're all having a lovely Easter weekend, we're off to Nantwich Jazz festival in Cheshire today which should be good. FYI I have already decided that next year I am definitely making one of those Easter trees that seem to popping up all over Instagram- basically big branches with pretty pastel eggs hanging off them- I've had serious Instaenvy all weekend! 
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Friday, 25 March 2016

Low carb cauliflower cheese fritters


Following the success which was the zucchini fritters last week, I set about thinking of other ways that I could make fritters, and a quick Pinterest search revealed that cauliflower ones were definitely the way forward! If you're eating low carb cauliflower is definitely your friend as you can eat it so many ways, my particular favourites being as a pizza base and as a bolognese alternative. I always find that one of the hardest things to source when you eat this way and don't eat meat is things to snack on; if you eat meat you're able to snack on meat on the go, but it's a bit harder if you don't.


These fritters are just the answer to that problem, they make a perfect main meal- I had some with a  chunky tomato sauce and a poached egg, but they're also great to snack on. Another great thing about this recipe is that it basically uses the exact same mixture as the cauliflower crust pizza, so you can just make a huge batch of it then make pizza with half and fritters with the other half! Now I normally cook the cauliflower when I do this and then wring the excess water out but I have tried and the pizzas so seem to work fine without doing that, though they're not quite as crispy. This particularly appeals to me as I don't like spending too long cooking (despite having a cooking blog!) so this way I can make a big batch of the mixture at the weekend then cook it up during the week saving lots of time for other important tasks, like reading other peoples blogs or Pinteresting. To do this just double the recipe, the mixture keeps for about 3 days in the fridge.


So you will need:
  • One small cauliflower
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup grated cheese, preferably a strong cheese like mature cheddar or vegetarian parmesan
  • 1/2 a cup almond meal
To make them:
  • Cut the cauliflower into small florets and place in a food processor, you can also grate it if you don't have a food processor, though this can be pretty messy! add the cauliflower to a colander with about two teaspoons of salt and let it drain for about 10 minutes
  • Add to a bowl and add the other ingredients and mix well, the mixture should come together like a thick dough though it will be more crumbly than a normal dough- this is fine.
  • Take a big non stick frying pan and heat some oil on a medium heat
  • Take big tablespoons of the mixture and put in the pan, flattening them down with the back of the spoon
  • Leave to cook for about 5 minutes (they might take slightly less or more time depending on their size) then turn over and leave to cook for the same amount of time on the other side.
  • Remove and enjoy!

You can enjoy these hot or cold, you can also reheat them by popping them in a frying pan for a few minutes which will help them crisp up again as well.
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Monday, 21 March 2016

Lovely hands with Aesop


So a change again from my usual posts today to talk briefly about another couple of current beauty favourites. I mentioned here that I am currently trying to transition into just cruelty free beauty products. It's actually turning out quite a lot more difficult that I previously thought. For example there are quite a lot of companies who do not test on animals but who are owned by a company who does. For example the Body Shop, a brand I previously always considered to almost epitomise strong ethics, and who I thought had a very strong stance regarding animal testing, are in fact now owned by L'Oreal. This is no great loss to me as my teenage days of loitering around the body shop for hours and constantly smelling of Dewberry are pretty much behind me, but it goes to show how careful you have to be if you're going to really take this seriously.

Ostensibly it seems pretty easy; it has actually been illegal in Europe to sell products that have been tested on animals since 2013. It's a bit more complicated though, as those companies can still test on animals outside of Europe and sell them there. This all means you have to decide how militant you want to be; it may be enough for you to know that a product hasn't been tested on animals, or you may want to take a stronger stance and boycott companies that conduct any type of testing on animals at all. 


So as well as the dilemma as to whether to still buy from companies who don't test on animals but whose parent companies do, there's also the dilemma as to whether to still buy from companies who may test on animals outside of the EU. There's also the small matter of what to do with the extensive collection of products that I already own some of which may be tested on animals... Not decided what to do about that one yet, but as I'm unlikely to think of anyone who actually wants most of it, I've pretty much decided to use it all up as it would seem the ultimate insult to waste them if any animals did suffer in order for them to be made. 

Anyway, without further ado, I thought I'd share a couple of gems that I've been loving recently. I love hand products, in my job I wash my hands or use alcohol gel pretty much constantly and as a result they get dry really easily. I therefore like to carry hand creams around all the time and have them in all my bags as well in in my car and on my desk as I really hate the feeling of having dry or tight hands and can't relax until they feel soft again!


I do tend to prefer the more high end hand products now as I do think their smell lingers for so much longer and the softness lasts for much longer than with cheaper products. I also really love using a hand wash and cream which have the same scent as it seems to push the scent to last so much longer on your hands. I once worked with an Occupational Therapist who said that a lot of people place a huge amount of significance on their hands as they're the part of the body they see the most throughout the day. She also said we rely on our hands to do so many things for us, which means we subconsciously really value them, and don't cope well when they're injured etc. I had never really thought about that before but it's so true as I do probably look at my hands inadvertently almost constantly throughout the day, whether it's while I'm typing, or driving or playing on my phone. I also know that when I have a manicure or do my nails nicely, you feel instantly more polished, and conversely when I leave my nails and they look messy I feel so much more scruffy. Roght waffle over, onto the products

Firstly then, is the Aesop Resurrection Aromatique hand balm. This comes in two sizes but I love the 75ml one for carrying around. Also a bit random, but I really like the toothpaste style packaging as it gets smaller as you use it if you know what I mean. I hate plastic tubes where as you get to the end of the tube, you struggle each time to get some out, where with this style of tube you can roll the tube up as you start getting through it, thereby pushing the product up towards the opening.


The smell is also really strong, which is another plus for me as I love strong scents. The smell is quite hard to place- for my unrefined nose anyway, but if pushed I would describe it as quite citrusy with quite strong herbal elements.

It sinks in really easily and doesn't leave any kind of film or stickiness on the hands which is really important, as I also hate that feeling. It leaves your hands feeling basically how they should do normally, or perhaps just a bit softer. It's described as a hand balm which to me implies something really dense, I wouldn't quite describe it as that, as other balms I've used feel a lot more intensive than this one, but as I use it so many times a day, that actually suits me much more. It does say it's formulated for frequent use though, so it is clearly meant to be used slightly differently to a typical hand balm which you would use far more sparingly. It can also be used on your feet but I'm yet to try this as I'm pretty happy with my current feet products. 

ps a little aside, but at the bottom is a little T S Elliot quote; "Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood". Now far be it from me to let a gimmicky thing like this impress me, but, let's face it, it does!

Secondly is their  Resurrection Aromatique hand wash this is pretty expensive at around £25 a bottle, though a bottle is big at 500ml. I also love the Reverence handwash which feel like slightly more than a hand wash as it almost exfoliates as it cleans. I keep that one in the bathroom and use it last thing at night really working it into my hands before finishing with a thick layer of hand cream. The resurrection one is a slightly more frequent use hand wash, so is a lot more gentle and leaves my hands feeling so soft and smelling amazing, especially when I then layer up with the hand balm.


So they're my current hand favourites at the moment, I do have to say, I also really love the Neals Yard garden mint and bergamot hand wash and cream which is also so heavily scented and leaves your hands feeling so soft, and I like to switch products around every so often so may well go back to those next. We'll have to see, I like to live life on the edge when it comes to hand products! 

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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Courgette, mint and goats cheese fritters

I had the nicest lunch this week at Ethos foods, a delicious vegetarian buffet just off Oxford Street. They do the nicest courgette and cheddar fritters and I've been obsessing about them ever since I went, so today being a weekend when I have much more time on my hands, I thought I'd have a go at recreating them. I opted for goats cheese rather than cheddar as that's what I had in, and also I had decided to pop mint in and felt like goats cheese would be a better match.
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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Vita Mojo at St Pauls


It's been a little while since I've done one of these posts but I ate somewhere last week that was too good not to share. It's another healthy fast food outlet and only serves lunch being open from 11.30- 3, but it works a little bit differently to most other ones. 

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Sunday, 6 March 2016

Spring flowers and a blueberry feta salad


Spring is most definitely here (in the UK) now and the garden is really coming into bloom. Among  them is the start of my edible flowers which makes me very happy! So I thought I'd share a few snaps of the flowers I've got so far. 

Firstly primulas: these have just started popping up all over the place, and we have loads in the garden as well as seeing them growing wild when we go on walks. We have mostly yellow ones, though a couple of pink ones as well which are so lovely. 



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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

A few Neom favourites


Bit of a change from my normal posts but thought I'd share a few little beauty finds with you. I'm a complete beauty junkie, I buy loads and loads of products and if I never bought another one I probably still wouldn't be able to get through the mountain that I have amassed. I have been thinking for quite some time though about transitioning to cruelty free products as I do hate the idea of using something for vanity that has only come about because an animal had to suffer. It seems so needless especially as there are now so many lovely products around which are ethically produced but are in no way inferior to their animal tested counterparts.

Saying that I will still use up the products that I do have, because if there's anything worse than having products that have been tested on, it's wasting them. At least, that's how I'm thinking at the moment, if I find people who want them and will genuinely use them, I might in time just get rid of all of them.

With that in mind then, here are a few products that I really love at the moment, they're all by Neom which is a brand I knew really for their candles which are pricey but are so so scented and feel so decadent. I have recently started to get into their skincare so thought I'd show you a few bits.
 

The first is this Daily Boost face, body and hair oil. I love a multipurpose product, mainly because I'm pretty lazy busy. Now I'm not normally sure about an oil or cream that can be used on both face and body as usually anything that can be used on your face won't be intense enough for body. This is largely because I rarely moisturise my body so when I do I want something that's really strong. This oil is an exception though and is not too heavy on your face but also leaves your legs (the only body part I really bother with) feeling really soft for ages. Likewise I put it through my hair once a week once it's towel dried and let it sink in. It leaves my hair feeling so soft and shiny, I keep it away from my roots though as it's too heavy for there and will make it greasy- learnt this lesson the hard way...

Also important is the scent, if you're going to be covering your face, hair and body in something, it needs to smell good. This has a lovely scent; quite minty with some citrus poking through- really fresh!
 

Next up is this bath and shower gel, it's the same minty-citrusy scent which I love, as it's so nice to layer a scent by using several products with the same scent to really make it really linger. The smell does hit you as you're using it as it's so fragranced. The box says it lifts your mood and relaxes your body as you inhale the fragrance, now I wouldn't quite go this far but it does feel a bit more special that rubbing Radox on yourself! It always seems pretty extravagant to spend a lot on a shower gel (to me, anyway) as it seems to be gone so quickly so this one is the reserve of Christmas/ birthday presents.

Side note: You can't really see but how lovely are these Ranunculus the background? Spring has definitely sprung here and these are from my garden- they're so pretty!

Finally is this half used Great Day body scrub. Again with the same scent, it's a very oily scrub which I love. Now, I don't usually have the time to use it all over my body (does anyone?), so instead, I keep it by the sink in the kitchen and occasionally scoop some out and rub it into my hands for a few minutes before rinsing it off. It makes your skin feel so so lovely, like you've just had a treatment done, and they smell amazing. My hands feeling soft is really important to me as they get very dry from using lots of alcohol hand gel at work, so I always invest a bit more in lovely hand creams and scrubs to stop them from withering up.

And that's it! Now this brand is pretty pricey, though you can occasionally spot it in T K Maxx with quite a lot of money off, they often have their big candles in for £25 instead of £40. I've also noticed that it's now in Marks and Spencer and they have good promotions on from time to time. If  you order direct from their website you can accrue Neom points which are actually so good, you earn 50 for signing up, then 5 for every pound you spend, then you can choose to redeem them against future orders, so you can have some money knocked off the next time your order. It's only a little bit (for me usually anyway), but it all adds up!

I'm contemplating summoning up the courage to show some products in action- ie with me in them, but that might be a bit too far out of my comfort zone- we'll see! Anyway, I've done a pretty big ethical beauty haul, so I'll be back soon sharing my thoughts on that. Have a lovely week!
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