Wednesday, 28 December 2011


cucumber wakame salad and fish sandwiches

hello lovely readers! long time no speak. i hope you all had a very wonderful Christmas, and are looking forward to 2012 :)

Christmas was incredible this year, so much fun was had! instead of taking photos galore, i did lots of cooking and eating - helping Farmor cook the usual smorgasbord for Christmas Eve, then we had duck for Christmas lunch, and then a marvellous array of nibbles for dinner... it was yummy. there was nonstop family arriving and departing of course, but that's how i like the festive season to be!

so, i thought i'd share a few of my most recent eats with you, as well as a funny little video:

aubergine carrot noodles with wakame cucumber salad - random weird meal that turned out to be very delicious. i think i have a new found love of wakame... i purchased some dried in Oz, and brought it back with me, and it's so tasty.

more brown rice congee! i seriously love this stuff... i could eat it every morning (if i didn't love oats and buckwheat loads too!)

plenty of walks with little Bruno have been had the last couple of days...

the ultimate fish sandwich, made by my brother's fair hands... crispy fish, boiled egg, radish, cucumber, spinach, mayo, toasted cranks. serious yum.

if you really want to know how to make this sandwich, then check out my latest Youtube video!!:

my favorite gifts this Christmas were my favorite perfume and dark chocolate from my boyfriend Pete (yes, this is the first time you're hearing about this...more later!) and a tiny silicone spatula from my friend Emily, which i've already used 3 times.

so, how was your Christmas? what's your favorite thing to do when you're bored?

currently listening to: dedication to my ex by lloyd - love the beat.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

wild mushroom foraging

a few weeks ago i mentioned that my brother, jonny and i had been out foraging mushrooms from the wild... so today, i thought i'd share some photos, and a little info about what occurred that fateful afternoon.

firstly, it's probably very important to say that you have to be extremely careful when mushroom foraging - some are very poisonous and even deadly. BUT, there are really good guide books and a great wealth of online resources to help guide you to know whether what you've found is actually edible, so it's worth giving it a go, because they can be super nutritious, very tasty, and are of course, FREE.

jonny and i have been meaning to go mushroom hunting for a long time now, and one sunny wednesday afternoon we just decided to go for it. bag in pocket, dog on lead, wellington boots on, off into the local fields and forests to search for fungi.

and we found some nestled in some nettles, in a field full of sheep.

we found two other varieties, but decided that they were too small, and too questionable to bother picking (one lot was growing on a rotting tree stump, the others were randomly growing by the footpath where dogs run, hmm). the ones that we found were massive, so even though we didn't know what variety they were, we figured they were in a good location, and because they weren't red with spots on, that we'd be at least 50% of the way to knowing they were probably edible.

when we got back home, we did some serious online research, checking photo after photo to make 110% sure that we weren't going to poison ourselves. wild about britain was very helpful, as was
this foraging guide to mushrooming. we decided that our mushrooms were shaggy parasols (macrolepiota rhacodes) and that therefore they'd be fine once cooked!

we were absolutely terrified that we might poison ourselves, and so jonny decided that the only way to try them was to cook them very thoroughly, to be on the safe side and avoid 'gastric upset' which can sometimes occur with shaggy parasols.

so what did we do?

firstly, jonny fried them in butter and mixed in some herbs and cream cheese to make a mushroom sauce type thing, which we had with swede fries, swedish red cabbage and chilli chutney. the flavour of the shrooms was very intense, and delicious!

then the following day, we made a mushroom omelette. which was divine! rich flavours, simple, wild ingredients. and i'm sure lots of extra goodness from their having been grown in the outdoors near some sheep.

so next time you fancy a little free wild mushrooming: be appropriately cautious, be thorough in your research for identifying them (make sure to check regional websites for tips on what grows locally and where - UK mushrooming guides will vary from the US and France, for example) and then go for it! but probably don't eat them raw.

have you ever been mushrooming? what's your favorite way to eat mushrooms?

currently loving: the january issue of Vogue - so so pretty...

goodbye pump, hello pen

so, today i took out pedro's battery. he is in hibernation.

shiny new futura vs. silent purple paradigm...

why? well, after 3 weeks of very frustrating trial and error with new sets and new sites, i got to a point of distrust and extreme frustation with my insulin pump, and decided (with the help of doctor and specialist nurse) that a pump holiday was the right thing to do.

i've been using a pump since i was 13, so you can imagine just how weird it is to be sat typing this post without anything attached to me. i'm going to have to relearn how to use MDI (multiple daily injections) correctly, so that i don't have too many dangerous highs and lows.

but, considering i've had both of those in the last week alone (ketones up to purple, and 3am sweats from a 2.7 - not cool), i'm actually not so fussed, because it can't be worse than i've been doing lately.

my distrust for pedro has got so bad, that i really didn't ever want to put in another set. i've been feeling that way for a week or more. i am permanently tired and lethargic with horrendous levels, and i hate to think of what this is doing to my internal systems.

i'm looking forward to not worrying about:
  • the tubing getting caught
  • infusing into muscle accidentally
  • whether the insulin is absorbing, and if not, why not - is it the set, is there a bubble, has the insulin denatured, is there a kink in the tubing, are my clothes too tight? etc, etc.
  • being concerned about whether i wear socks to bed, as this will raise my core temperature and likely make the insulin far less effective.
  • having to inject for meals and corrections anyway because the set isn't working.
  • thinking about all the possible variables!
moving onto Lantus for a while will, i'm sure, present it's very own problems. but if it helps me to see the importance of having my pump and using it well, and learning to trust it again, then i think it'll be worth the nuisance of switching back.

practically speaking, it couldn't be easier to switch back to injections really. i will be using the Lantus twice a day, 8units at 8am, 8 units at 8pm. simple, for now. i was on about 10units of basal on the pump, roughly in total, so it's been increased quite a lot. we'll see how it goes, and i will see the nurse next Monday just to confirm everything is going ok. she gave me a fancy new ClikSTAR and a HumaPen Luxura (v. posh - like it a lot!) to use on my new regime, which is exciting!

for a long time i thought it would be like admitting defeat if i couldn't get the pump to work properly, but now i'm sort of excited! i was having to carry around my HumaPen and spare sets with me anyway from the sets failing on me all the time, so there'll actually be LESS stuff to lug around all the time :)

who knows when i'll be back using Pedro, but in the meantime, i'm happy to avoid using my abdomen to give it a rest from all the scarring that's happened to it, and to hopefully put some weight on, so i have a few more places to start using sets again!

it's certainly going to be an interesting few weeks, that's for sure ♥

thankfully, it's not all doom and gloom - i had some amazing test results back from the surgery on Monday, to show that my hormones and kidneys are working awesomely well!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

101 things to do when you're bored

  1. drink some tea
  2. go for a walk
  3. watch a movie
  4. turn on some music
  5. dance
  6. check out videos on YouTube
  7. bake some cake
  8. send an encouraging text
  9. go wild food foraging
  10. create an inspiration board or book
  11. knit or crochet something
  12. write a letter
  13. sit in a cafe and people watch
  14. figure out exactly how you'd spend a million
  15. sing
  16. meditate
  17. clean & tidy your room
  18. change your desktop picture
  19. organise your recipe folder, and go through your recipe books and mark ones you'd like to make.
  20. have a nap
  21. update your budget
  22. write a blog post
  23. play with your makeup
  24. dress up
  25. draw
  26. try out a new hairstyle
  27. call someone
  28. chew some gum
  29. find 5 new words in the dictionary
  30. scroll through old photos
  31. organise your wardrobe
  32. plan a party
  33. video yourself
  34. paint your nails
  35. weed the garden
  36. follow some yoga on youtube
  37. have a bath
  38. light a candle
  39. go to charity shops and play the £5 challenge (basically see what amazing thing you can get for £5, good fun by yourself or with a friend)
  40. write to your local council
  41. write a "happy list" of 10 things that make you smile
  42. make some bunting
  43. origami
  44. watch catch-up TV
  45. open a tin from your pantry
  46. tie dye
  47. learn a phrase in a foreign language
  48. alter a piece of clothing you never wear
  49. put stuff on ebay
  50. clean
  51. sprout some seeds
  52. make an indoor tent
  53. go to your local petshop and look at the fish
  54. skip or hopscotch
  55. poach an egg
  56. offer to babysit for a friend
  57. go to the library
  58. brush your teeth
  59. doodle nonstop
  60. plan a roadtrip
  61. do laundry
  62. get friends round for a sleepover
  63. walk barefoot
  64. pack a picnic
  65. lie outside on a blanket
  66. sew up a bag out of an old shirt
  67. go fishing
  68. play boardgames with your family
  69. lay the table and have 'high tea' with friends
  70. watch the sunset or sunrise
  71. practice creating perfect winged eyeliner
  72. write a gift list for Christmas
  73. make a mixed CD
  74. scavenger hunt
  75. create some art for your bedroom
  76. make homemade applesauce
  77. catch a bus
  78. barbecue
  79. rearrange your room
  80. ride a bike
  81. camp in your own garden
  82. draw with chalk on the sidewalk
  83. wash your car
  84. take a photograph every hour
  85. fly a kite
  86. visit your nearest art gallery
  87. pluck your eyebrows
  88. alphabetise your books
  89. volunteer for charity
  90. go for a torchlight walk
more ideas for things to do when you're bored at home, or with friends and family:
 - laugh hysterically for no reason at all
 - pray
 - make and eat cookie dough

cherry almond mince pies with a buckwheat crust

happy advent everyone! today i want to share with you the ultimate homemade mince pie - which happens to be sugar free and gluten free too, as well as packed full of delicious fruits and nuts.

these are so good that my highly critical brother scarfed 3 of them in about 2 minutes, and then proceeded to get one from the local bakery to test, and returned to tell me that mine were superior in all aspects...not too sweet, and with a lovely flavourful crust.

actually, i happen to agree with him. it's very difficult to eat a shop bought mince pie after you've made them yourself. and so i've been making my own for the last few years. it may seem like a long process, but it will be so worth it!

cherry almond mince pies with a buckwheat crust

for the crust:
240g (1 1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
125g butter, cubed and cold
1 beaten egg (+1 for egg wash)
1 tsp vinegar
3 Tbsp iced water

1. begin by aerating the flour and salt by lifting the flour through your fingers.
2. rub in the cold fat, until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. beat together the egg, vinegar and water, then stir into the flour using a knife to cut, stir and bring pastry together.
4. form a slightly sticky ball of dough with your hands.
5. knead lightly for 2-3 minutes.
6. flatten and refrigerate. this will keep in the fridge for at least 24 hours, if not a couple of days. or you can make ahead of time and place in the freezer.

for the cherry almond mince meat:
250g (1 1/2 cups) sultanas or raisins
1 lemon, grated and juiced
1 cup hot water
100g (1/2 cup) almonds, finely chopped
2 tsp mixed spice
2 apples, grated
a little freshly grated nutmeg
100g (1/2 cup) canned cherries, drained
1 Tbsp marmalade
1 dsp vanilla extract
100g (1/2 cup) suet (you can use traditional, gluten free or vegetarian)

1. soak the sultanas/raisins in the lemon juice, zest and hot water for about an hour, until plump.
2. mix all the other ingredients in, and then place in a saucepan to simmer for about 1 hour, until pulpy and glossy.
3. this will keep in the fridge for a fortnight, due to the sugar content and the suet. made ahead of time, it will allows the flavours to enfuse even more! you might even have a little leftover for another batch...

to assemble the mince pies:
1. divide your pastry into 4, and roll out until the width of a coin.
2. cut circles out to fit your tart tin or cupcake tray, and smaller ones to act as lids
3. place the large circle in the tray, fill with mincemeat and cover with a lid.
4. brush over with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar or edible glitter.
5. bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden, at 180c

cook's notes: these freeze beautifully. so make lots, and keep some in a container in the freezer until Christmas Day to enjoy with the family.

i hope you enjoy making these - i love the process, and the smell as they cook, as well as how good they taste reheated and served with a little greek yoghurt or creme fraiche.

 currently listening to: the christmas song by nat king cole - the most gorgeous and warming Christmas song ever!

Thursday, 1 December 2011


lessons in saving money and budgeting

otherwise titled, 'what i learnt from the big budget challenge'. thanks to Laura for being a wonderful host for the last two months, and for doing round-ups of everyone's very interesting and helpful posts.

i've personally learnt loads from having done this challenge, and so today i want to share with you all some of the wisdom i've gained, and a few practical tips for ways you can reduce your grocery budget. because, really, it'd be a little pointless if i didn't share my secrets with you all!

first though, let's look at some numbers that have accumulated in the last 2 months...
  • 39 receipts from 11 different places
  • 16 of those were from Waitrose, where a total of £150.60 was spent, with an average of £1.36 per item
  • 9 of those were from Lidl, where a total of £136.93 was spent, with an average of 80p an item
  • 5 of those were in Tesco, where a total of £56.73 was spent
  • the others were from the market, local Nisa, Well Natural, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's, the local Garden centre and tool shop - totalling £55.71
  • all in all £399.97 was spent over 2 months for all the food and household items for 3 people. that's £6.45 each day, or £44.44 each week.

things i learnt:

1. we are so very blessed!
2. using herbs and spices to their full potential is key.
3. that using what you have in stock, or what's on offer is far cheaper than planning your meals.
4. foraging wild produce is exciting, delicious, easy and free!
5. eating seasonally is essential for health, happiness and your wallet. local markets are the best place to find good deals on seasonal fruit and veg.
6. growing your own veg is ultimately rewarding.

7. keeping things simple is key - simple flavours, simple combinations, simple meals.
8. that Lidl's is awesome!
9. that shopping around is the best way to get a good deal, and by keeping receipts or a cost book you can figure out where is the cheapest place to buy essential staples.
10. beans and lentils truly are the cheapest and healthiest sources of protein out there, and can be used in a variety of different and exciting ways.
11. making things from scratch is way cheaper.

12. i really don't need any more clothes for a long time...
13. it's easier to be healthy if you spend less money, because you'll be reducing your expensive meat and dairy intake, and increasing the amount of cheap veg and fruit.
14. i don't NEED an everyday intake of dark chocolate and yogurt to keep me going! my body is well equipped to survive and thrive on whatever sustenance i give it :)
15. free exercise is the best exercise!

check out each weekly post in detail for more info on exactly what was spent where and why:
week 1 - in which i lay down my rules for the challenge, and tell you how much we used to spend on groceries...
week 2 - where i bought antique knives for £1 at a local fair, made chickpea marrow torte and foraged lots of blackberries from hedgerows near our house
week 3 - learnt to make barley chappattis, finished my patchwork quilt and went to my first car boot sale where i purchased a huge jumper for only £1
week 4 - where i realised that what we spend on food is ridiculous in comparison to those who have NO food, and we cut our weekly spending budget by £15.
week 5 - when i made raisin oat bannocks, foraged wild apples by the side of the road and enjoyed a hot picnic feast at the allotment with ginger parkin.
week 6 - i discovered sweet red bean paste, had a delivery of woodchip at the allotment and discovered pinhead oatmeal
week 7 - when i made brown rice congee, bought our Christmas ducks for the freezer and roasted allotment squash
week 8 - in which i foraged mushrooms with my brother from an obliging field, sold a coat in a trade store and at chili chutney with everything

currently listening to: god rest ye merry gentlemen by annie lennox - yes, the Christmas playlist has now commenced!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

leftover oatmeal pancakes and favorite books

i hope you're having a great day!

today i simply want to share with you my latest eats, and some links to delicious ideas and recipes:

leftover oatmeal pancakes. what else do you make when you've got leftover oatmeal? instead of following a recipe, i just mixed the leftover oatmeal with a little baking powder, cinnamon and an egg, whisked with a fork, and voila!

tuna melt with crispy kale. a simple, cheap and satisfying lunch - my favorite that takes longer to prepare than it does to actually eat it.

 ♥ new potato, cavolo nero kale and tomato tarragon stir fry. a very delicious dinner, whipped up after the realisation that new potatoes were in fact low GI (how did i not know this?) and also because it's so rustically simple and satisfying to cook things with a little creme fraiche, stock and herbs.

homemade mince pies. with buckwheat shortcrust pastry and cherry almond mincemeat filling. oh my word, the recipe is coming soon for this one...

on a walk with dog - there was much fun to be had kicking up all those leaves :)

 thanks to peas and crayons for another epic WIAW!

and lastly, i was recently asked for some book recommendations, so i thought i'd share with you this video that i created for my Youtube channel, telling you my fave health and recipe books:

of course, had i taken this video now i would also have to include my very own breakfast cookbook, just because of the acheivement it represents and the amount of times i open it in the week.

what are your favourite cookbooks and health books?

currently listening to: paradise by coldplay - i know you've probably all heard it a million times, but after being thoroughly unconvinced to begin with, i now really love it :)


Monday, 28 November 2011

paprika molasses beans and christmas lights

hey all! i hope you are starting to feel in the holiday mood, aka happy, generous and thankful. i've been doing my upmost to get into the spirit of the festive season, even though it hasn't snowed like last year, and it's not even december 1st yet. don't judge me, i just l.o.v.e. Christmas.

there are poinsettia's in the house, i've begun compiling this year's holiday playlist, i've been to the local Christmas lights switch on event, and i attended an advent 'darkness to light' procession at Salisbury Cathedral - incredible! with 1300 candles and beautiful choral singing, i felt very festive indeed.

so, i haven't bought my presents yet, not even close really, but i have got a list, which i feel is pretty good going. every year i say i'll do it early, but i never really get round to it. at church yesterday i talked with several women who have already wrapped all their gifts...impressive organisation or what?!

anyway. onto some of my latest eats:

paprika molasses beans with egg fried brown rice and courgette.

you may ask 'why alissa, why on earth, would you make homemade beans when you can buy them for 26p from Lidl?' - the answer is because a) they are delicious, b) i never have before and c) it's good value for money if you make a lot.

making baked beans in a slow cooker is quick and fun, and so much more flavourful than a tin - yes, even an expensive Heinz tin. it's pretty simple to do, with the help of the beautiful as american as apple pie cookbook that i picked up for £1 at a charity shop last month. or, there's a beautiful recipe for Boston beans at just hungry, which is very similar to the one i used, except i added some smoked paprika, Worcestershire sauce and applesauce, and swapped the ketchup for tomato puree and a little red wine vinegar.

seriously good stuff.

♥ curried carrot, sweet potato and broccoli with a fried egg on cranks organic wholemeal with butter bean paste, and a little chilli chutney on the side.

butternut squash mac and cheese with spinach and chopped salad. this is such an awesome recipe - i mixed my butternut 'cheese' sauce with some cooked butter beans for extra protein. yum.

the local Christmas lights switch on event - there were loads of people, and christmas songs, and gorgeous fireworks. a lovely occasion to be part of, and officially the start of the season for me!

currently listening to: a very she & him christmas - i know it's a little early, but i've started compiling some awesome tracks for this year's festivities :)

what's your favorite christmas song? have you ever made your own baked beans?

ps. today i am the featured blogger on Foodista! check it out here...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

rice stuffed squash and crispy cavolo nero

happy thanksgiving everyone! i know i'm not actually American, but i appreciate any opportunity for giving thanks and spending time with family... and to eat pumpkin pie too, of course.

today i want to share a simple recipe for a very delicious dish, that's made with scrummy allotment vegetables and pantry staples...

stuffed squash with brown rice, mushroom, red onion and crispy kale

the crispy cavolo nero kale with it is one of my favorite things to pick up from the market - nutritious, but mostly just really delicious!

 mushroom and brown rice stuffed squash with crispy kale

1 small round squash
1 red onion
a couple of handfuls of mushrooms
1 cup cooked brown rice
a little vegetable bouillon
cracked black pepper
fresh parsley
1 ball of mozzarella
4-5 large cavolo nero kale leaves
1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil

1. cut your squash in half, take out the seeds and place face down in a baking tray filled with a little water. bake in the oven until tender - or for about 35-45 minutes.
2. fry your red onion and mushrooms in a frying pan until soft.
3. add the cooked brown rice into the pan, and add in a little water and a sprinkle of vegetable bouillon, black pepper and fresh parsley. simmer until the water has been absorbed.
4. place the mixture in the cooked squash halves.
5. slice up you mozzarella ball, and place on top. place in a hot oven, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
6. tear the cavolo nero into the frying pan with the butter or coconut oil. fry until the oil has disappeared, and it becomes crispy - whilst the squash is cooking.
7. enjoy! serve with a little dill yogurt dip or homemade ketchup.

cook's notes: this recipe would taste good with most any grain, vegetable combination - the balance is important so that the textures are right. try quinoa and broccoli, buckwheat and red pepper, or chickpea, cauliflower and aubergine.

and now for the latest from the big budget challenge...

well, this week we've not done too badly...
  • there's currently £7.74 in the account. hmmm. this is a reflection on the reduced budget, and the fact that whenever i go shopping with my mum, i somehow seem to buy loads more for no apparent reason. does anyone else find this?
  • we spent £8.46 in Waitrose, and £27.84 in Lidl. we purchased a few staples, but lots of fresh produce too - perhaps more than was required however. i added up all the 'extra' things that mum put in the basket, and they totalled £4.16. BUT, then i added up all the extra things i added in the basket so i didn't appear stingy, and that totalled £4.82!!

  • i got some frozen beans and peas for the freezer, because it's a good quick dinner for someone else to make, and we all adore them.
  • we haven't eaten any dahl for over a week, or any socca either. there's something a bit weird about having too many veggies in the fridge - i feel i need to eat them all as quick as possible, so they don't 'lose nutrients' or something, and then when there aren't any left i feel like i'm depriving myself.
  • my brother jonny and i have been mushroom foraging - more pictures and info on that to come soon (there's a sneak preview on my facebook!)... but suffice to say we are both still alive, and neither of us have suffered with 'gastric upset' due to poisonous fungi.
  • last Saturday i picked up some money that i had earnt from a secondhand clothes store - £22.50 in total for one coat that i never wore. i have spent some of it already, but there's still a little bit of spending money left for the next week! handy for Christmas present buying :)
  • i have a new job working for my church office - i am so enjoying it, and it's helping me earn a little extra cash as well as spend time with awesome people helping to organise events, and learn a few new skills.
  • i'm loving eating up the chili chutney that i made for the bonfire banquet - it goes very nicely with loads of things. and also we've been eating carrots, potatoes, squash and red onion from the allotment, even though we haven't gone up there in a while because it's so cold.

currently reading: the tuscan year by elizabeth romer - i'm only on the first few pages, but i'm so excited to learn more about real tuscan living.