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Time for Something New

Happy New Year Everyone! It’s back to work for us all, but no need to go back to boring routines! January is all about trying something new (and perhaps a new delicious recipe…)!

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Happy New Year everyone! I hope you enjoyed the festive period with loved ones and are ready to take on 2019 and all the exciting opportunities and challenges it’s sure to bring!

For most of us, this week brings the return of the normal working week and repetitive routines, but don’t let the reality shock get you down! Why not keep up the New Year positivity by making small goals that you’d like to achieve during the week? Whether it’s being more active, making more effort to spend time with loved ones, trying a new hobby – all of these things could put a positive spin on your week and give you a sense of achievement (especially if it’s related to a New Year’s resolution that you may have made). Take this week as an opportunity to try something new! You’ll find a tasty new recipe below if you’d like to try your hand at baking!

New Year, New You?

A lot of you may have made New Year’s Resolutions, and I can guarantee that the majority of these will revolve around health and fitness (am I wrong?). With more and more people turning to vegan diets, a growing resolution is to tackle ‘Veganuary’. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it means following a vegan (plant-based) diet for the whole of January. This is a huge challenge, especially for those who are used to consuming a diet that is rich in animal products. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that you’re consuming adequate nutrients to avoid any deficiencies that could be harmful to your health. Though I don’t personally follow a vegan diet, my diet is mainly vegetarian and plant-based, and I like to experiment with recipes that suit a range of diet. So, I’ve been in the kitchen and have come up with a new sweet recipe for anyone who’s trying veganism (or just loves desserts!) and wants to still enjoy a taste of the sweet stuff. Shop-bought and restaurant vegan desserts have gotten better in recent years, however these can be so expensive! So here is the recipe for my latest creation – chocolate-smothered baked donuts! They’re light and fluffy, just sweet enough, and the rich, chocolatey topping gives them a nice bit of healthy indulgence! Can’t resist? You’ll find the easy recipe below!

Chocolate-Topped Baked Donuts

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Recipe (Makes 10)

Ingredients (Donuts)

  • 100g oat flour
  • 50g self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 130ml almond milk
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp vinegar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 50g apple sauce
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 10g flax seed (soaked in enough hot water to cover for 10 minutes)

Ingredients (Topping)

  • 20g smooth peanut butter
  • 1tbsp maple syrup
  • 2tbsp cacao/cocoa powder
  • 4-5tbsp almond milk

Method

  1. Blend the oats to a flour, then combine with the remaining dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
  2. Add in the remaining wet ingredients and mix well
  3. Grease a silicon donut mould with a little oil. The mould I used had space for 8 donuts
  4. Fill the moulds to just below the top, so that the middle of the ring is exposed to create the ring shape
  5. Bake the donuts for 15-20mins until golden and firm
  6. Leave the donuts to cool in the mould for at least 15 minutes, then carefully remove each one
  7. Top make the topping, melt the peanut butter in a microwave (around 20 seconds should do), then mix in the remaining ingredients. Add more milk if you’d prefer a thinner consistency, but make sure the mixture is spreadable
  8. Spread a little of the chocolate topping on each of the donuts once they are cool, then finish with any desired extras (e.g desiccated coconut, chopped nuts)

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Easy! These are great for sharing with friends or storing as an emergency snack when the sweet cravings hit! They’ll keep well in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or can be frozen to enjoy later. Don’t forget to feedback in the comments if you make them!

Beat the Winter Blues

It’s mid-Winter, it’s dark and chilly all of the time…it’s exam season!  It’s a student’s worse nightmare, and so I’ll be doing my best not to let the Winter Blues get me down too! Regular yoga sessions, leisure reading and still making time for a few fun things are my chosen strategies for combatting the blues…I can’t say for definite that they’ll save me from the brutal force of exam stress, but my intentions are good! So you won’t be hearing much from me this month, but be sure to check out my Instagram page, however, as I’ll still be posting regularly with meal and snack recipes (most probably with a speedy twist due to my busy revision schedule!). So it’s bye from me for now, but I hope you continue to enjoy the New Year and keep up the good work on any resolutions you’ve made!

-TheCookingYam

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That Festive Feeling…

Christmas is on the way! Time to celebrate the festive season with a delicious new recipe – spiced apple and ginger cake!

The countdown has officially begun – Christmas is on its way! If you’re anything like me you’ll feel like it’s crept up with no warning and you don’t know what to do first –  shopping, making plans with friends, planning out revision (a sad reality, but there’s still plenty to be done!)… It’s time to step back, take a deep breath and think about all of the wonderful things that Christmas brings, and delicious festive foods are just one of them! To help myself feel a bit more festive after being so busy lately, I hit the kitchen and came up with two new Christmas themed recipes! Find the recipe for my brand new, sweet and spicy apple and ginger cake below – it’s a great one for baking in bulk and sharing around friends and family, so you could easily make it as a homemade gift! Plus it’s suitable for vegans/ those on a dairy-free diet so it can be enjoyed by many.

It takes little time and effort, but there’s no compromise in flavour! This cake is moist, warming and has just the right balance of sweet and spice – give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Spiced Apple and Ginger Cake (Serves 12)

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Ingredients

  • 120ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 100g wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 150g oats, ground to a flour
  • 20ml coconut oil (melted)
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 15g flaxseed
  • 15ml white wine/apple cider vinegar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • 1tbsp ground ginger
  • 120g apple (finely chopped and cooked)
  • 40g sultanas
  • 2tbsp maple syrup

Method

  1. Add 4tbsp hot water to the flaxseed and leave to soak for 10 minutes
  2. Blend the oats together with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then mix with the flour in a bowl
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well for a few minutes until combined
  4. Pour the mixture into a deep tin lined with baking powder, then bake for 15-20mins at 190C until firm and a knife comes out clean when inserted
  5. When the cake is cooked, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then pierce the surface a few times and drizzle the maple syrup over
  6. Divide into 12 portions and serve up warm or leave to cool!

 

This would be delicious if served warm with a nice dollop of Greek yoghurt, light crème fraîche or a vegan alternative such as coconut yoghurt! It’s a simple way to celebrate festive flavours, and it’s nutritious too! If made according to the recipe, each slice is low in sugar and fat, but provides a good source of dietary fibre, iron, vitamin A, calcium and B vitamins. Find the full nutritional label below:

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That’s it from me for now! I’ll be back soon with another festive feature as Christmas (and my 22nd birthday!) are fast approaching! I hope you enjoy the recipe, and please get in touch to let me know your thoughts on the recipe and any other content!

-TheCookingYam

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Something Seasonal

So we’re right into the depths of Autumn now – the days are long, dark and cold…the trees are almost bare, and the festivities are getting into full swing! It’s time to really celebrate Autumn in style!

So we’re right into the depths of Autumn now – the days are long, dark and cold…the trees are almost bare, and the festivities are getting into full swing! Diwali and Thanksgiving have come and gone, but Christmas is on the way! It’s time to really make the most of our delicious seasonal produce and celebrate Autumn in style.

What’s New?

November has flown by in a blur of revision, university assignments and many other commitments, but it’s been productive! As you might have seen, I’ve added a new GetBuzzing page to my blog, where you can find all of the recipes I’ve made using these tasty bars (so far, there are many more to come!), as well as a page where you can find all of my nutrition resources.  Head there to find a collection of simple recipes and food guides, which I’ll be updating regularly. I’m also preparing to begin data collection for my nutrition-focused final year project, as well as making final plans for the pilot of the much-awaited British Swimming Breakfast Club! I’m so excited about these projects and will keep you all up to date with my progress in the near future, so keep a look out for upcoming posts over the next few weeks!

I’ve been lucky enough to become a member of the committee for Loughborough’s Landscaping and Gardening Society – a warm and welcoming community of like-minded individuals who all embrace the environment and wonderful produce it can yield when we look after it. We meet every Friday afternoon to clear up the garden, participate in activities such as taking cuttings and soup-making workshops, then round it all off with freshly-made soup (normally made using garden produce) and homemade treats around a bonfire. Not only has this been brilliant for me to meet a very diverse range of new friends, but I’ve also learnt so much and have the opportunity to completely de-stress at the end of a busy week. I’m also fortunate in that we share a lot of the foods that have been recently harvested, including many deliciously sweet apples, locally grown walnuts, and my favourite of all – pumpkin! If there’s one food that defines Autumn, it’s the humble pumpkin! And I have to say, LAGS’s pumpkins are the best I’ve ever tasted – proof that homegrown, organic produce really is the best. I’ve been using them in everything, from sweet dishes to savoury, but find the recipe for one of my top creations – spiced pumpkin and split pea soup – below. It’s hearty, nutritious and full of flavour – the perfect comfort food for combating the cold weather! Plus it’s suitable for vegetarians, vegans, lactose intolerant/dairy-free and gluten-free diets, so everyone can enjoy it!

Spiced Pumpkin and Split Pea Soup (Serves 2)

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Ingredients

  • 300g roasted pumpkin – roughly chopped into large chunks
  • 1 small onion – roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic – grated
  • 2cm cube fresh ginger – grated
  • 1tbsp coconut oil
  • 400ml vegetable stock
  • 200ml passata
  • 50ml light coconut milk
  • 60g dried yellow split peas
  • 1tbsp turmeric
  • 1tbsp cumin
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • A few sprigs fresh coriander

Method

  1. Heat a saucepan, then add the oil, allowing it to melt
  2. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and spices, then fry on a low heat for 2mins
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock and the peas (rinse these in cold water beforehand) and turn up the heat so that the liquid is simmering
  4. After 15mins, add in the passata, stir, then leave to simmer for a further 10mins
  5. Add in a few chopped coriander leaves and stalks, as well as the pumpkin. Stir carefully so that the pumpkin remains intact, then leave to heat through for 3 mins
  6. Finally, stir in the coconut milk, leave to simmer for 2mins, then serve it up!

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I love this soup when it’s topped off with a swirl of coconut milk, and sprinkle of chilli flakes and pumpkin seeds for extra flavour and texture. It’s not too spicy, but it’s warm, flavourful and highly nutritious. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, potassium and iron – and since this was grown organically, I know that it was free from any nasty agricultural products. Split peas add in a nice dose of protein, more iron, magnesium, vitamin B6 and fibre. Spices, garlic and ginger are excellent for bringing in those all-important antioxidants to aid with immune function – something that becomes essential though the cold and flu season! And finally the coconut milk/oil adds in vitamins E and K, as well as saturated fat – it’s healthy to include this form of fat in the diet, so don’t fear it! Overall a fresh dish that’s simple, nutrient-dense, and packed with flavour. Give it a go yourself and share with friends or family, or save extra portions in the fridge for up to 3 days, or alternatively in the freezer until needed.

That’s all for this post – it’s short and sweet but hopefully you’ve enjoyed it! I’ll be back soon to update on breakfast study/club progress, and as Christmas approaches I’ll of course be whipping up some delicious themed bakes to get into the festive spirit! As always, feedback and suggestions welcome in the comments.

-TheCookingYam

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Autumn Vibes

Autumn has officially arrived! Embrace everything the new season has to offer, from wonderful seasonal produce to a host of community events!

Autumn is officially here – the leaves are falling, scarves are calling, and the hearty dishes are definitely on the menu! As promised, I’m back with an update on how I’m settling into my final year at university and my progress with those goals I set, as well as my favourite new recipes from the recent apple harvest!

Harvest Time!

Harvest has to be one of my favourite times of the year – it’s a time when you really come to appreciate how incredible the environment is. We’re lucky here at Loughborough University in that we have a lot of fruits and vegetables that grow naturally on campus. Every Autumn there’s an abundance of apples to pick, and a huge range of seasonal fruits and vegetables are grown by our very own Landscaping and Gardening Society. I’ve just become a member of this society and had my first gardening session a few days ago. The members welcomed me to the communal garden, where a homely shed, vast allotment and compost heap provide the nurturing home for some of the best organic foods I’ve ever tasted! In only a couple of hours I shelled fresh walnuts, made bay cuttings, hung rosemary to dry, learnt so many gardening and cooking tips, and tried some delicious homemade soups (of course featuring an array of garden-grown ingredients). The ethos of the society is simple – look after the earth, and the earth looks after you. It’s a simple, but very meaningful outlook to take. I felt so at home with them, and couldn’t wait to get involved in the rest of the harvest activities that were to come!

Harvest Day featured a number of themed activities: apple pressing to make fresh juice, pumpkin carving, soup lunch, children’s workshops and foraging…But the day wouldn’t have been complete without an apple-themed Bake Off, followed by a huge community feast on the entries! It was a great day celebrating the new season, and definitely put me in good spirits! Here are just a few of my favourite pictures from the Harvest events:

Scenes from the Loughborough Garden and Harvest Festival

Ready, Set, Bake!

So I couldn’t resist submitting a couple of entries to the Apple Bake Off, and the feedback was so positive (by the time I got to the feast my cake had almost gone!)! Bake Off entries were an apple, walnut and date loaf (apples and walnuts were campus-grown) and a vegan apple and date crumble traybake. Both were demolished, and due to popular demand I’ll be posting the recipes here! You’ll also find the recipes for my apple and sultana crumble muffins below, which were also a big hit in the house.

Vegan Apple and Date Crumble Bars (Serves 12)

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Ingredients:

Base

  • 100g oats
  • 20g melted coconut oil
  • 50g cup maple syrup
  • 20g nuts of choice
  • 15g seeds (any, but pumpkin/sunflower recommended)
  • 25g flour

Apple and date filling

  • 2 peeled, chopped apples
  • 50g pitted dates, chopped
  • 100ml water
  • 1tsp cinnamon

Crumble topping

  • 50g ground oats
  • 50g flour
  • 10g melted coconut oil
  • 10g chopped nuts
  • 15g maple syrup

Method:

  1. Blend all ingredient for the base in a food processor until well-combined
  2. Add filling ingredients to a saucepan and simmer until apples have begun to soften, stirring occasionally
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the topping ingredients and mix until a light crumble with some clusters is formed
  4. Spread the base onto a lined, deep baking tray, pressing firmly
  5. Add the topping and spread evenly to form a thick layer
  6. Sprinkle the topping over, ensuring that the spread is even
  7. Bake for 25mins at 200C until golden brown
  8. Allow to cool slightly before dividing into 12 portions and sharing with friends and family!

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Apple and Sultana Crumble Muffins (Makes 6)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup barley flakes or oats, ground to a flour
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 chopped and peeled apple
  • 2 tbsp sultanas
  • 1tsp cinammon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2tbsp crumble topping (see above recipe)

Method:

  1. Cook the apples, sultanas and cinnamon in 50ml water until the apples have softened
  2. Either blitz remaining ingredients (minus the crumble mix) together in a food processor, or in a mixing bowl whisk together the maple syrup, eggs and ricotta, followed by the dry ingredients (gradually folded in).
  3. Divide the majority of the mixture between six lined muffin cases, reserving a little.
  4. Top each muffin with a heaped spoonful of the apple mixture, followed by a final spoon of the cake mixture to cover.
  5. Sprinkle over a little of the crumble mixture to finish, then bake for 20-25mins until risen and golden.
  6. When still warm, make a few holes in each muffin with a skewer, then drizzle over 1tsp maple syrup to finish

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There’s a few adjustments I’d like to make to the apple loaf I made for the Apple Bake Off to make it even tastier, so look out for the recipe on my next post!

For now, enjoy all of the wonderful things that Autumn has to offer, and get busy baking! As always, feel free to get in touch with any comments or questions!

-TheCookingYam

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Changing of the Seasons

It’s out with the shorts, flip-flops and sunnies and in with the umbrellas, gloves and jumpers – yes, autumn has arrived! Read on to hear about my plans to embrace Autumn as I return to University for my final year, and of course, a tasty recipe too!

It’s out with the shorts, flip-flops and sunnies and in with the umbrellas, gloves and jumpers – yes, Autumn has arrived! I can’t deny that I’m a little blue over the sudden disappearance of British Summertime, but I’m determined to embrace everything that this beautiful new season has to offer… Or at least I’m going to try!

A Fresh Start

So this year autumn has coincided with my return to Loughborough University for my final year of studies – a prospect that has definitely brought with it plenty of mixed emotions. The nervous anticipation is well and truly set in my stomach, as I try to mentally prepare for what is sure to be an emotional rollercoaster of a year (there’s guaranteed to be multiple ups and downs!), but the excitement is there too. I’m trying not to let the fear of the stressful times and mid-term meltdowns cloud this excitement, and so I plan to see this year as a fresh start. This year has so much potential to be one of the best of my life, and I don’t want anything to stop that from happening! I’m dedicated to my career and am ready to embark on the next step towards it..I’m raring to try as many new things as I can, and most importantly, I’m surrounded by amazing friends, both at Loughborough and at home. Why shouldn’t this year be incredible? In the end, the only limit is myself. So I’ve set out a list of tips for myself to follow to kickstart this academic year in the best possible way (and thought that publishing them would mean I have to stick to them!):

  • Settle in: It’s been over a year since I last had to attend lectures and study for my degree (due to taking a year out to complete a placement), and so I need to get myself back into the routine. I tend to dive right in, and often get overwhelmed, so this time I’m aiming to break myself into the ‘finalist mindset’ as gently as possible
  • Find the balance: I can sometimes be a bit of an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of person who will put my heart and soul into making something work. Whether it’s work, friendships or activities, I have to go all out, but sometimes get a bit burned out. I’m hoping I’ve learnt from experience and can take a few weeks to get into my study and work routine, and balance this with my social activities and fitness regime. Focusing on just one area over the others really doesn’t work, so I know it’s important to find the right balance for me
  • Catch up!: If it hasn’t been months since I’ve seen some of my friends, then it’s probably been a year! So many of my friends went out on incredible placements last year, and so there’s plenty to catch up on. I’m sure I can manage a few pub trips and coffee dates, if I must…
  • Think me: I’m not going to say that I’m the most self-less person in the world at all, but I do try to look after and help others to the best of my ability…it’s just a shame that I can’t take my own advice sometimes! We’re all the same, it’s easier to dish it out than take it sometimes! But I’ve learnt – after endless complaints from close family and friends – that at times I need to put myself first, prioritise my needs, take care of myself. For me it’s easier said than done, but I’m determined to work on this, especially since it’s such an important year, and I can’t afford not to be on top form!

It feels great that I’ve set these goals for myself ahead of final year, but the real value comes from my commitment to them in real life. So look out for my future blog posts, where I promise to update you on how I’m getting on!

Seasonal Spirit

There’s so much to love about Autumn when you live in a country that is lucky (or unfortunate, you decide!) enough to experience all 4 seasons. We Brits love to complain about the weather, and so we eagerly anticipate the next season as a relief from the current one. I can’t say that I’m following the general consensus right now though! Whilst so many of my friends are excited about donning their new knitwear and in-season macs, I’m still stuck with the post-summer blues, dreading the miserable weather that is yet to come. But enough of that! I can’t let myself get down when there’s so much to look forward to! Seasonal produce: squash, root veg, plums, apples…so many of my favourite foods are on their way out! Cosy coffee dates are one of my absolute favourite past-times, and you can’t enjoy these any more than when it’s crisp outside! And I have to admit, I have a soft-spot for my go-to Autumn outfits: skirt, knitted jumper, heeled boots and scarf – me all over! So with so much to look forward to, why am I so reluctant to face Autumn head on?

It’s the prospect of seeing such little daylight when mornings are dark and dusk approaches in the late afternoon, and the fear of the bitingly cold breeze that’s ready to hit you like a wall when you open the door. But I suppose it’s a case of focusing on the positives more than the negatives – sounds simple, I know. What am I going to do? Embrace the positives! Everyday I’m going to include at least one of my favourite things about Autumn: starting the day with a warm, seasonal breakfast…taking a wander to the apple trees on campus and picking a few fresh delights to use in my baking…wearing my favourite scarf and gloves out for the day…meeting a friend for a coffee break after a lecture…If I want to survive this Autumn amongst the deadlines and typical ‘uni stress’ then that’s the way it’s got to go! You heard it here first, I am dedicated to making this autumn as amazing as my summer!

And though the darkness prevails in Autumn, there are still some stunning sunsets and sunrises to be seen, and the frosty weather can also make for a pretty photograph too – just one thing that I’ve been able to see the Autumnal beauty in.

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Bake the Blues Away!

This week’s Great British Bake Off had an Autumnal ‘spice’ theme to it, and I can definitely say that this inspired my latest recipe – spiced fruit and nut cookies. They were rich, soft and crumbly – perfect for an afternoon tea treat! And they were another experimental recipe – one that I can see being a hit around Christmas-time when sugar, spice and all things nice are on the menu. If I were to do anything differently, it would be to add even more fruit and nuts! So go for it if you’re a fruit and nut fan too!

Recipe (Makes 12):

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Ingredients:

  • 80g medium oatmeal
  • 180g wholemeal plain flour
  • 100g malt extract
  • 25g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 30g (2 tbsp) groundnut or coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 30g mixed dried fruit and nuts (roughly chop the nuts before adding to the mixture)

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl combine the oil, malt extract and egg.
  2. Add in the remaining dry ingredients, then carefully fold in
  3. Keep mixing until all ingredients are well-combined and a firm dough is formed
  4. Make 12 balls out of the dough, place each on a lined baking tray, and press down to form a thick disk (around 1.5cm thick)
  5. Top each with a sprinkle of extra chopped nuts, and decorate with a pattern if you wish
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 180C until golden and risen
  7. Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes (the fruit inside will be extremely hot straight out of the oven), and enjoy warm or cool – either one is delicious. If enjoying warm, a scoop of vanilla-flavoured thick yoghurt or cream would be delicious!

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These aren’t the healthiest baked goods I’ve made, but they do still contain some fairly nutritious ingredients. After my Mom recently told me about the age-old claims of the benefits of malt extract I thought I’d try using it myself in baking – and these cookies were born. From what I’ve read, it seems like malt extract can be a good source of potassium, unrefined sugar and antioxidants – so perhaps a nutritious alternative to table sugars. By using wholemeal flour I hoped to increase the fibre content and decrease the glycaemic index of the cookies, whilst the oatmeal was also used for this purpose, as well as increasing the iron, manganese and Beta-glucan content (plus the texture was nice with this addition!). The full nutritional label can be seen below:

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That’s it for this round-up post – I’m ready to tackle final year and a chilly Autumn, with the help of good comfort food, cosy clothing and a fab group of friends. Let the best year of my life begin!

-TheCookingYam

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Roaming in Rotterdam

I’ve been on my travels again, and I’ve got plenty of stories to share, all the way from the stylish city of Rotterdam!

Hello and welcome to this week’s blog post, which as promised, is a little more special than usual. I’ve been on my travels again, and though it was only a short break away, I’ve got plenty of stories to share, all the way from the stylish city of Rotterdam! Read on to hear all about the sights, the travelling, and the incredible foods from my trip away, and how I’ve been inspired by the experience!

Day 1

Rise and shine! We headed the airport first thing on a drizzly Tuesday morning, and couldn’t wait to escape the rain. It was a smooth and swift journey to the Netherlands, where a speedy transfer from Amsterdam Schipol Airport landed us right in the heart of Rotterdam. A quick wander around the local area confirmed that we’d chosen a great city for our adventure – with stunning architecture, cosy cafés and a buzzing atmosphere surrounding us. And the sun was shining to top it off! We couldn’t stay long though, as our Airbnb host was awaiting our arrival, and after a short ride on the local tram, we found ourselves in a lively neighbourhood at our beautiful rented apartment.

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One of our first views of the city of Rotterdam

Now this was to be our first time using an Airbnb, so despite the scores of 5 star reviews  for our chosen apartment, I couldn’t help but be a little anxious about what to expect. My fears were cast well aside when Peter (a warm and welcoming perfectionist of a host) introduced us to his traditional apartment with a twist – the twist being an abundance of incredible high-end and homely touches. We couldn’t have felt any more at home, with a sparkling kitchen, suave lounge/dining room, comfortable double room and luxurious bathroom all to ourselves! And it was much-needed after a full day of travelling! Following a simple dinner thrown together with supplies from the local shop, we settled down for the evening and prepared for a big day of exploring.

Day 2

We began our first full day in Rotterdam with a short trip to our local supermarket (Albert Heijn – our top choice convenience store) to pick up fresh supplies for breakfast. For me, it was absolute heaven! – Dutch and Scandinavian foods are some of my absolute favourites, so I couldn’t resist picking up some traditional Quark (a high-protein, low-fat cheese/yoghurt-style product) to start the day with!

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Back to basics, just how I like it – Quark, warm nectarine, chopped almonds and pistachios

It definitely powered me up for our long amble to the city, where we took the time to explore all the little hidden gems the city had to offer. But our ultimate destination – the famous Markthal – beckoned, and we couldn’t wait to get there!

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The wondrous Markthal – a foodie’s heaven

We were in awe when we arrived, with almost every sense overwhelmed as soon as we stepped into the huge hall. Everywhere we turned there were bright murals and stalls, incredible fresh foods to sample, and mouthwatering meals to tempt us. After touring around the hall, we settled upon our lunch options, and mine was a custom-made Sally’s Salad – smoked salmon (a must when you’re in northern Europe), avocado, chickpeas, tri-colour pasta, beetroot, and a delicious sesame dressing. It definitely hit the spot for freshness and was great value for just €6! After a little more sampling – the Stroopwaffel and natural peanut butter stalls were definite favourites – we continued on our journey into the shopping district of Beurs.

 

 

A few snapshots from the inside of Markthal (special shoutout to Casa Reiners for their incredible range of minimally refined oils, nuts butters and vinegars!)

Our stroll through the bustling streets eventually led us back towards Centraal Station, where we spotted a sophisticated-looking café that would be perfect for us to rest our legs. It was Douwe Egberts café – a modern, artsy hub of a coffee shop next to Centraal Station – and the menu was huge! For me, it was a Chai Latte, and I suppose I’m late to this party (Chai-spiced food and drink is massive right now!), but there’s no going back for me now! As a fan of spices and anything warm and comforting, nothing suits me more. Chai lattes will be my go-to this autumn, maybe with some chai-flavoured bakes to accompany (watch this space!). 

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My first Chai latte – I’m a convert!

It felt so good to just sit down and spend time relaxing with my sister. Though we spend a lot of time together at home, there’s something more special about it when you’re in a different environment, sharing new experiences and memories. The best thing about travelling together is that we understand each others’ interests (and when we need to rest, which saves a lot of arguments!), so it’s easy to agree on plans for trip activities. But after the long day of walking we were worn out and agreed that it was time to head home for the evening via tram and recharge our batteries for the next day.

Day 3

Morning followed the same pattern as the previous day, with a trip to the supermarket for fresh breakfast supplies, and it was another of my top European superfoods on the menu – kefir. This staple food is getting a lot of attention in the health world at the moment due to its probiotic properties (you can read more here), which are famed for benefitting gut health and function. For those who are fans of natural yoghurt like myself, you would love it as it’s a sour-tasting yoghurt/milk drink, but there’s also so much you can do with it. Drink it, pour it over cereal, blend it up in smoothies – it’s easy to incorporate into your diet, and it’s becoming more popular in the UK. So if you spot it on supermarket shelves, give it a go, you might be surprised!

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A simple Dutch breakfast of Kefir, multigrain biscuits and fresh nectarine and mandarin wedges

After breakfast we headed to the city, and a short walk from Centraal Station took us to Blijdorp Zoo – just the place my animal-lover sister had been desperate to visit! Out of the main visitor season it was a little bit quieter, and it meant that we could have a chilled wander around the zoo and take time to admire the incredible array of creatures. Flamingos, polar bears, sharks and sea lions – this zoo had it all, and I couldn’t help but feel like a young girl again as we took it all in. Though the weather was awful, it didn’t dampen our spirits or stop us from having a fantastic time together. We enjoyed each others’ company – bad inside jokes and countless silly discussions can keep us occupied for hours! – and we definitely took the opportunity to indulge in this whilst we were away. 

 

 

Blijdorp Zoo – A stunning environment, home to a variety of beautiful creatures

Day 4

So our final day was upon us and we took the opportunity to visit the final few landmarks that we’d missed, and take another wander to our top destinations in the city. A casual walk to the city accidentally resulted in an hour-long detour to the west harbour (completely my fault, I’ll admit!), but eventually we made it across the famous Erasmus (Swan) Bridge and into the stunning city once more. By this point, the lively streets seemed so familiar to us, and so it was easy to make our way to Markthal for the final time. From the moment we arrived in Rotterdam it was clear to see that it’s a place of great diversity – both in environment and in culture. In every corner of the city you can find a variety of communities hailing from different cultures – with food stores and restaurants to match. And this is what Markthal embraces – it’s a celebration of all of the exciting foods that different countries and cultures have to offer. This time I fancied something a little more exotic, and tried my first Gözleme – a traditional Turkish street food with a savoury filling. I made mine a ‘Vega’ – stuffed with feta, olives, tomatoes, onions and spinach – and watched as the skilled chef prepared it right in front of my eyes. In minutes, my freshly-grilled pastry was portioned and boxed up for me to take away and indulge in – and I enjoyed every bite (albeit in two sittings – it was huge!). For only €6 this was amazing food for amazing value, and once more inspired me to create something similar for myself at home. After a final sampling tour around Markthal – well we couldn’t leave without a taste of something sweet, could we?! – we emerged onto the shopping district and once more took in the atmosphere around us.

 

 

Our last day – featuring a nerve-wracking hike across Erasmus Bridge and one last lunch date at Markthal

Final Thoughts

From conversations with locals and our own impressions of the trip, it was clear to see that Rotterdam is a very special city. It’s brimming with ambition, culture, history, style…and great food! Everything that travellers adore. So if you haven’t been already, I’d definitely recommend it! If you do decide to go, here’s a few tips to make your experience as amazing as ours:

  • Take your own walking tour: by following tram or bus routes through the city and outer regions, you can find so many hidden gems, and you’ll have time to take all the photos you want without the time pressure of a bus tour
  • Visit Markthal: even if you’re not a foodie, you’ll love this place for its vibrancy and quirkiness – the outer building is actually inhabited accommodation, whilst the inside hall serves as the market space!
  • Take some quiet time to appreciate the surroundings: like so many European cities, Rotterdam is heaving with activity, but there are so many stunning parks and cute cafés to take some time-out in. You can really fit in a bit of mindfulness here, which will give you that much-deserved ‘me-time’ and allow you to enjoy your break away even more.

 

Thanks for reading all about my trip to Rotterdam, and be sure to look out for future posts on TheCookingYam Instagram for my travel-inspired concoctions!

-TheCookingYam

Featured

Fun in the Sun

It’s the middle of the British summer, so it’s time to make the most of the sunshine and enjoy good food and good times with loved ones!

The sun is well and truly here to stay (or, it was, at least)! Whilst we Brits have a bad habit of complaining when ‘enough is enough’, I am definitely embracing this seemingly never-ending heatwave! Options are open with summer – picnics in the park, outdoor exercise and feasting on fresh foods can easily become habitual – so read on to find out how I’ve been enjoying the sunshine and to see one of my top summer recipes!

It’s Bye for Now

One of the reasons behind my sporadic, infrequent posts over the past few months has been my hectic work schedule whilst on placement. This should no longer be an issue (hooray!), as 27th July marked the official end of my placement year with British Swimming – a milestone that I can certainly say brought mixed emotions with it. I’ve loved supporting talented, elite athletes over the past year, and have been provided with so many opportunities to learn about various areas of sports science…especially nutrition! It really was heart-wrenching to say farewell to the athletes and coaches, but I’m also so excited to return to my final year of studies! I am lucky enough to be continuing with British Swimming next year by supporting training sessions and undertaking my dissertation project (nutrition-focused – what else?) with them! I feel so grateful to both Loughborough and British Swimming for supporting me on my journey to become a sports nutritionist, and words cannot express the pride I’ve felt when watching this summer’s European Championships in Glasgow. Whilst I was unable to go and support, I was just as emotionally invested from home, and couldn’t help but cheer on loudly when watching the incredible athletes I’ve worked with achieving such well-deserved success.

So whilst it’s a sad farewell for now, I can’t help but look forward to the exciting opportunities coming my way in the next academic year.

Home Sweet Home

After completing my placement it was time to return home for the summer – a nice change that would mean more time with friends and family. And it was full-on from the moment I got home! As per my Sunday tradition, I had to do a bit of breakfast baking, and whipped up a couple of batches of breakfast cookies to share with my family. Two batches – choc-banana and Nutella – were served up in our mini feast, and I can safely say that the Nutella ones went down the best. Find the easy recipe for these tasty treats below;

Nutella Cookies (Makes 6)

 

Ingredients:

  • 100g jumbo oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp plain wholemeal flour
  • 15g honey
  • 50g (around 3 tbsp) Nutella/hazelnut spread
  • 50ml almond milk (I used unsweetened)

Recipe:

  1. Leave the oats to soak in the milk for 5 mins
  2. Beat the egg, then add to the oats, followed by the remaining ingredients
  3. Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly combined
  4. Add 6 spoonfuls of the mixture to a lined baking tray (reserving around 1/4 for topping), ensuring that they are evenly spaced apart
  5. Add 1/2 tbsp Nutella to the centre of each cookie, then top with another spoonful of the oat mixture. The Nutella should be well covered to avoid burning. 
  6. Bake for 15 mins at 190degC 
  7. Enjoy fresh out of the oven when the centre is melted, or store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. They can also be frozen and then defrosted for use at a later date. 

For those of you who are curious on the nutritional side of things, here’s the nutritional label for the cookies, when made according to my recipe. If you go a little heavier on the Nutella then remember they’ll be a bit more energy dense! 

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Homemade treats can potentially be so much healthier than pre-made, and these cookies are a great example. They’re fresh, contain no preservatives, and they’re a great source of fibre and vitamin D! You can enjoy these with family and friends, knowing that they contain no nasties and are fuelling a balanced lifestyle. 

Bringing Back Memories

As the end of July marked my beautiful sister’s 20th birthday, it was only right that I treat my travel buddy to a little getaway…It was only a UK break, but it was exactly what we both needed! New Quay and Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, were on the agenda – the locations of many happy family holidays over the years. We may have only spent a short 3 days there, but we made the most of every minute, and most importantly, we laughed A LOT! There’s only 18 months between us – just one of the reasons why we’re so close – and we share similar interests, so trips away are always fun. It was amazing to just be able to spend time catching up after being apart for so long, and enjoy so many of our favourite hobbies: paddleboarding, sea-swimming, dolphin-spotting, coffee dates, eating out…fish and chips (The Lime Crab, New Quay is a must-go for the best version of the national dish!)… Being in the environment we’ve loved so much since childhood brought back so many wonderful memories, and of course allowed us to make a few more too. 

It’s always easier to travel with someone who knows you well, and nobody does know me better (well, with the exception of my best friend, who also happens to be the talented editor of this blog!). That’s why my favourite trips are spent with those close to me – the ones who understand my need to double-treble check bookings, my need for a coffee for the journey (come on, it’s a must!), and that I’m content just sitting and quietly taking in my surroundings… Breaks should be exactly that – a break! A break from the routine, a break from your normal environment, a break from the everyday. Our trip was definitely a break, and it just wouldn’t be right for us to be satisfied with just one break over the whole summer. Our next trip is already in the diary, and in a fortnight we’ll be preparing to say ‘hallo!’ to the spectacular streets of Rotterdam! This destination is my sister’s choice, so it’ll be amazing to explore what hidden gems it has to offer after Amsterdam set the bar so high when we visited last year. So keep a look out for a post on this trip sometime in September…I’ll make it a good one!

A few of my favourite pictures from the trip:

Top: New Quay Harbour

Middle (L-R): A traditional Welsh bakery in Aberystwyth, our coffee date (complete with a fresh Welsh cake) at Coffee #1, Aberystwyth, and ice cream on the harbour wall in New Quay

Bottom (L-R): Fish and chips from The Lime Crab, New Quay, view of New Quay bay, a beautiful coffee merchant’s – ‘The Mecca’ – in Aberystwyth

That’s it for this post – I hope you’ve enjoyed the varied content, and as always please get in touch in the comments section if you have something to share or want to leave a little feedback. Until my next post (hopefully something special coming soon!), take care and enjoy the sunshine.

-TheCookingYam

GetBuzzing Granola

20181110_081805Granola! What a delicious way to start the day! But store-bought types are so expensive and can often be loaded with added sugar and preservatives. Why not make your own? You can customise it to suit your own taste, adding in a mixture of dried fruits, nuts seeds – really jazz it up and get creative!

If you’ve got a bit more time and a really want to go back to basics then you’ll find the recipe for my homemade granola here, but if a quick fix is your thing and you want ready-made flavour then using GetBuzzing bars are the way to go! There are so many tasty flavours to choose from, so feel free to mix it up and use your favourites.

Recipe

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Ingredients:

  • 2 GetBuzzing bars – your choice of flavour, but I used the Banana and Date ones for a change
  • A generous handful of mixed seeds – sunflower and pumpkin are a staple for me
  • A generous handful of mixed nuts – walnuts and almonds go especially well with banana, but use whatever you have!

Method:

  1. Preheat an oven to 200degC
  2. Break the bars into smaller chunks (you decide the size) and spread onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment
  3. Bake the oats for 15mins until golden and crisp
  4. Crush/chop the nuts into smaller chunks, then mix in with the seeds
  5. When the oats are ready, toss with the nuts and seeds, then leave to cool (or serve warm if you prefer)

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This simple granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks and tastes fantastic with a few healthy dollops of Greek yoghurt!

On a nutritional note, the GetBuzzing granola provides a great source of carbohydrate, iron, potassium and fibre – making it a great breakfast addition when you balance it with a source of protein (yoghurt or milk) and fat (nuts and seeds). You’ll be energised for the day ahead and get to enjoy a deliciously sweet breakfast too! Give it a try!

 

Comments and feedback always welcome!

-TheCookingYam

GetBuzzing Energy Truffles

Chocolate? Peanut butter? What a winning combination! But if your diet is nut-free there’s no need to miss out, with GetBuzzing’s delicious ‘Wowbutter’ bar! Somehow it tastes just like peanut butter, but contains no nuts at all! I used these tasty bars in my latest recipe to make up some truffle treats last weekend, and the recipe is so simple that anyone could give it a go!

Recipe (Makes 6-8)

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Ingredients

  • 3 GetBuzzing ‘Wowbutter’ bars
  • 3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 2tbsp syrup/honey
  • 1tbsp milk (dairy or non-dairy – your choice)
  • 2tbsp hot water

Method

  1. Combine the cacao, water, milk and syrup/honey together to make a smooth paste, then chill in the fridge until set (reserving a little to decorate). If you have small moulds to pour the mixture into then even better!
  2. Remove the mixture from the moulds when set, or cut small cubes from the set block
  3. Crumble the ‘Wowbutter’ bars into a mixing bowl, then microwave for 45s until softened
  4. Take handfuls of the crushed bar mixture, compress together, place a cacao piece in the middle, then form a ball around the cacao to cover, using a little more of the bar mixture if needed
  5. Repeat until all of the bar has been used
  6. Top with a drizzle of the remaining un-chilled cacao
  7. Refrigerate for at least 1hr, then enjoy!

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That’s it! They’re simple and so delicious! Plus you can store these in the fridge for up to 1 week, meaning that they’re great to make up in bulk on the weekend and take with you on a busy working day!

-TheCookingYam