Thursday, January 18, 2018

Emma's Exercise Experiments - The Gym

My favourite exercise is plain old walking about. I like walking in the countryside, walking about my neighbourhood doing errands and fast walking listening to my Zombies Run! app.

I could stick with walking but I vaguely worry I'm missing out on something more fun that I might like even more. So I've decided to try out some new exercise types to see how I get on.

It's January and that means one thing. Rushing to the gym after all the Christmas excess. Except, I started back in December so I'd be ready to post this blog post. Aha, tricked you!

I got a deal to try 5 days at a Puregym for £5. I went once a week for 5 weeks.

As gyms go, they're pretty good. You don't have to sign up for a year, you can join for just a month. You can even buy a day-pass if you want to try it before you join.

I almost failed at the first hurdle. When you book a day-pass online they text you a code to use to get in. I had to press the help button because I couldn't get my code to work. When the code does work you step into the futuristic tube which closes shut behind you, then opens up in front. It was a bit snug for someone of my generous proportions. I don't think it was made with me in mind!

The first couple of times I went I started off on a treadmill which is weirdly different to walking outside. It even affected different leg muscles than usual. I enjoyed being able to set an incline on my treadmill walks and there was even a fan built in to cool me down.

I enjoyed my visits to the gym. I tried the treadmill, cycling, the cross trainer, free weights and some of the weight machines (I have no idea what they're called). It was good to try out different things and I'm glad I did it. I found the gym staff friendly and happy to help with advice.I liked the competitive physical atmosphere of the gym, everyone is there to get fitter and make their bodies feel good.

Gyms aren't for me though, I prefer being outside walking to being inside on a treadmill. I enjoy the scenary as I walk about. Yesterday when walking I saw a fat little robin sitting on a branch and it pooped as I passed. How majestic! I enjoy that my legs are actually propelling my body along as I walk. Treadmill walking seems to take twice as long as walking outside. It's like humans have invented a way of exercising that's less enjoyable than actually walking. Closed off in a room with other people not getting anywhere.

As my Dad used to say, it'd be boring if we were all the same. It was great to see lots of people enjoying the gym. Good luck to them on their fitness journeys. I'll keep walking outside for now until my next  exercise test which will be Yoga. Watch this space. :)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Playing Silly Burgers 8: Chilli Burger

Chilli burgers are one of JD's favourite burgers and one time a few years ago he ordered one in a takeaway only to be given a burger with a sauce made up of hot chili peppers. He was not pleased!

So today we're doing it the proper way with chilli on top of a burger. Well almost the proper way, we're using canned chilli for convenience.

Mix together minced beef, sausage, mustard, parsley and garlic to make the burger patties. Fry them in a bit of oil and top with chilli on a ciabatta bread roll.

The burgers were pretty great. Messy to eat with the chilli on top but still good. The inclusion of sausage in this burger made them a bit soft whereas we'd have preferred just beef patties. Ciabatta is a good choice of bun as it soaks up the chilli nicely. Overall a decent burger.

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 3

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Smoothies: Cocoa and Oat

I'm quite the fan of smoothies. Especially after exercising as an easy way to replace electrolytes. JD got me a smoothie maker for Christmas so I'm going to try up my smoothie game by making a few new recipes in it.

First up is a Cocoa and Oat Smoothie


3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup yoghurt
1/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 banana
1 dash cinnamon

Put it all in your smoothie maker (or blender) and blitz until smooth (usually on a few seconds).

I have a very limited repertoire of smoothie recipes so it was nice to try something new. I felt suspicious that the oats would be chewy but they just added a nice thickness to the whole drink.  It had a sweetness from the honey but wasn't too sweet. A success!

Oats have a fibre called beta-glucan in them that helps lower your bad cholesterol and cocoa is a great ingredient to use in January as it has anti-depressant qualities. I don't need help feeling good in January because it's my birthday month!

But I was thinking of you guys. :)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Restaurant Food at Home - Jamie's Italian

Another copycat meal tea for us, this time from Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant. JD and I love Italian food and we're keen to get Leigh and Erin to try more of it. They already enjoy homemade pizza and Leigh like lasagna. Other than that they're a bit suspicious of pasta dishes we have.

I browsed the restaurant menu and decided on this meal:

Sausage Ravioli £12.95 x4
Funky chips £4 x4
Molten chocolate pudding with vanilla gelato £6.50 x4
Ginger mojito £3.70 x4

Total £108.60


I'd want at least a night in a hotel and meal for that or a whole fun day out with the kids! Anyway, I'll try start breathing again because we're only copying this meal, not paying for it. :D

Here's our version which cost  £14.64.

Sausage Tortellini

2 packets of ready made sausage tortellini
500ml passata
100g grated cheese
5g mixed herbs

Cook the tortellini according to the packet (usually in boiling water for a few minutes). Pour in a dish and cover with passata. Sprinkle cheese and herbs on top. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes on 200C.

 Funky fries

Just some fried chips liberally sprinkled with chopped parsley and garlic salt.

 Ginger Mojito

Pour ginger beer into a glass, add 2 teaspoons of sugar, squeeze in lime juice and mix well. Top with some crushed mint leaves and lime wedges.

Molten chocolate pudding with vanilla gelato

 4 x Morrisons Finest molten chocolate puddings with homemade gelato and toffee sauce.

It all made for a delicious meal. Especially the puddings which were so fancy the chocolate sauce had glitter in it. Leigh liked the tortellini, Erin didn't try it but loved the funky fries. JD and I enjoyed it all. Especially that it was £93.96 cheaper. :)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Subscription Box Review - Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh is a subscription service that delivers ingredients and recipe cards to make planning meals easier. We decided to try out the Classic Hello Fresh box for 3 meals for 2 people, which costs £34.99. Being thrifty I got our box with a Groupon offer for £9.99.

The box arrived on time in an hour delivery slot. Well packed and undamaged.

Inside it contained 3 colour coded packages of ambient ingredients, 3 recipe cards and 1 package of fridge ingredients.

We picked the Creamy Mustard Chicken to cook first.

All the ingredients are supplied with the exact amount you need.

Our finished meal.

Things We Liked:

The recipe was delicious.
You get a decent portion.
There's no food waste.
It's easy to cancel so no obligation. 

Things We Didn't Like:

It's pretty expensive at the regular price.
The recipe said you needed 2 frying pans, we only have 1.
The instructions sometimes weren't clear.
Our mustard seeds popped out of the pan all over the kitchen. (We're still finding them now)

We enjoyed cooking this meal together but the recipe was a bit vague in some places. Someone with less cooking experience might struggle to follow the instructions easily. I think it could've been laid out better.

I'm not sure who this subscription service is meant for but it isn't us. We plan out our meals each week and get our shopping delivered anyway so it isn't a hassle. Our week's food bill is £70ish. Each meal from Hello Fresh costs £5.83 per person. It's almost cheaper to get a takeaway!

I'd recommend this subscription to anyone who likes cooking, leads a busy life and doesn't mind spending money.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I is for IceCream

A few weeks ago, my workmate Cathy was kind enough to lend us her ice cream maker to play around with. This is how we got on!

The first ice cream we made was lemon frozen yoghurt. Made up of lemon juice, sugar, greek yoghurt and cream. You mix all the ingredients together and chill them for 30 minutes so they're cold. You have to pre-freeze a bowl that sits inside the machine so you have to plan making ice cream at least 6-8 hours beforehand. Put the bowl in the machine and set the paddle going. Pour in the ice cream mix through a hole in the top and leave to churn for about 20-30 minutes. The machine clicks as the paddle starts turning the opposite way when it's done. Turn off the paddle and quickly scrape out the ice cream into a plastic tub and freeze for about an hour to firm it up. Or just eat as it is if you don't mind looser ice cream.

The frozen yoghurt made a really smooth creamy ice cream. We all enjoyed it and it was a good start to our ice cream journey.

Next, JD wanted to try some chocolate ice cream made with ready made custard. You make it by melting chocolate with thick double cream in a pan until it's smooth. Leave it to cool a bit then stir in the ready made custard. It looks delicious like this too!

Chill the chocolate pudding in the fridge for 30 minutes and then churn it in the machine exactly the same way as before. Freeze it for an hour in a tub again and you have chocolate ice cream.

This ice cream was also delicious smooth and creamy. I could get used to this.

Next we made a plain vanilla ice cream and added chocolate chips. Vanilla ice cream was made by mixing vanilla, double cream, milk and sugar. Chilled as usual and churned until thickened. We found that the ice cream mixtures that started off thick took 30 minutes to thicken whereas mixtures that were more runny in texture thickened much quicker. About 10-15 minutes. We added the chocolate chips near the end.

We experimented with different toppings and had ice cream cones. This one has M&Ms and toffee syrup stirred through it. We tried mint choc chip ice cream, clotted cream ice cream and vanilla gelato.

I think my favourite was the chocolate custard ice cream. We had it again this time with choc chips. Yum!

The ice cream maker was easy to use as long as you followed the instructions to the letter. It was a bit noisy to have churning for 30 minutes at a time and the paddle was difficult to scrape ice cream off. But other than that it was great to have freshly made ice cream whenever we wanted. The ice cream was enthusiastically received for the first couple of weeks then we all got a bit sick of eating it so often. JD and I preferred the plainer flavours of ice cream such as the lemon or chocolate rather than ice cream with syrup and toppings. I think Leigh was the only one keen to continue eating ice cream indefinitely.

It was fun to play with for a few weeks anyway, thanks Cathy :)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Burger It 7: Pork Sausage Burger

Something terrible happened with this burger and it's only now a week later that I can bring myself to tell you about it. We ate a burger without a bread bun (without bread of any kind in fact). I know my Dad would not approve.

Years ago when I was a teenager we were going to have an impromtu barbecue. But as often happens on the rare sunny day in the UK when this can happen, the local supermarket had been ransacked by other hopeful barbecuers. There were no bread buns to be bought anywhere. My Dad had a bit of a tantrum about it when my Mum suggested we go ahead with no bread buns. He said "You can't have burgers without any fucking bread buns". And he's right.

This recipe suggested serving the burger on a rosti with onions on top and God help us that's what we did.

Make the burgers from pork sausagemeat adding in some salt & pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon juice.

Cook them until they're done in a frying pan. Serve on a rosti with balsamic onions.

We sat down to this travesty of a burger feeling amused. It didn't look like a burger or even something we wanted to eat. But, it tasted great. The three components went together really well. It was delicious even though it had to be eaten with a knife and fork. With the addition of a bread bun and some sauce it might have been one of the best burgers I've ever had. From now on, whatever the recipe suggests we'll be having a bread item of some kind to encase the burger. It's what my Dad would want.

Ratings: JD - 4, Emma - 4