Dry-ish January – can it be done?

Last year as 2016 began my partner and his brother decided to do ‘Dry January’ – oh how I scoffed at the idea and made my lack of faith in them very apparent. But now that we’re in January 2017, I find myself wondering if I shouldn’t give it a go this year?

dryjanuary

It can’t be a completely dry 31 days, we’re going skiing at the end of the month and I don’t plan to miss out on the après-ski drinks…but can I last until the day before the holiday?

swiss-beer

No way am I missing out on the apres-ski action!

Incidentally, last January the boys only lasted two weeks (so I was justified in my lack of faith!). That said, we didn’t really go about it in the right way last year. With them off the booze, but me still on it, I made the excellent suggestion that we should drive to some out of town restaurants on the weekends (always looking at what’s in it for me!). The kinds of places that are near and you’ve always wanted to go but would be rather extortionate in a taxi…The Pig, Limewood, The Crab at Chieveley and the like. It was an amazing idea in theory, it meant we all got to experience the wonderful food at these places (and I still got to drink the wine). However, in practice it was total temptation of the highest order for the teetotallers! And it was the stunning bar out at The Pig in the New Forest that broke their will and saw them succumbing to a fabulous gin & tonic. It was a wonder that two dry weekends were managed with this approach really. In hindsight, going to lovely restaurants with amazing cocktails and wine lists was a terrible idea for those avoiding the booze (it worked well for me though!)…I’m surprised they agreed to it really!

So, after a very indulgent festive season and with a ski holiday coming up, I could certainly do with shaping up, losing a few pounds and generally getting back on track – and this is why I find myself contemplating a dry-ish January. I’ve never been tempted before, the closest I’ve come is giving up drinking on Fridays whilst on a pre-holiday diet and I found it incredibly boring! Never the less, I’m still feeling like giving it a go.

nowine

I’m not sure how well I’d fare out in a restaurant and it’s the weekends I’ll struggle most with. Wine or a drop of gin, certainly makes you feel like it’s time to relax after a hard week of working. Lucky that I love tea really I suppose. This year we both got an abundance of board games, Lego, books and activity themed Christmas presents to keep us occupied, so perhaps this is the way to fill the weekends instead?

Have you ever done a month off the booze? What are your tips for staying away from the wine? I welcome any advice!

 

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Recent finds

I’ve been up in London for both work and play recently and made lots of exciting foodie discoveries, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites here.

The Restaurant Show + The Bar & Pub Show

I was lucky enough to be working at this fantastic event and had a great time visiting different exhibitors and hearing their stories. Here are a few things I found…

Twisted Halo

twisted

Health conscious but enjoy a drink? This is for you! Twisted Halo is a gently sparkling blend of coconut water twisted with ginger and muddled with premium vodka. At 90 calories per 275ml bottle, it’s light, fresh and very drinkable. I hope to see pubs and bars stocking it soon!

Curio Spirits

curio

Yes more booze – but I loved the Curio Spirits collection of gin and vodka. Made in small batches all the way down in Cornwall they were full of fragrant botanicals and natural ingredients. I liked their Rock Samphire Gin, made with Cornish spring water and quadrupled distilled with 15 fragrant botanicals, including Kombu seaweed.

The Snaffling Pig Co. – Pork Crackling

snaffle

If you watch Dragons Den you may remember this company, who had reinvented pork crackling as a high end pub snack. I had to try some and I wasn’t alone in doing so, their stand was very busy with people sampling the tasty flavours. Expect to see these in good pubs soon!

This is just a little snapshot from the show, there were so many other great things to see and try and talks to learn from too.

Stylist Live 

A week or so later I was back in London for a fun day out at Stylist Live. This is a truly amazing event, with so much going on. I could have gone to all the talks and bought so many lovely things! There are foodie stalls, gins, clothes, jewellery, interiors, make up – just everything. It’s fair to say I was a little over excited. So here’s just two fun foodie finds…

Crosstown Doughnuts – Matcha Tea Doughnut

crosstown

I have had the pleasure of sampling Crosstown Doughnuts before (they’re amazing!) but I’d never tried their Matcha Tea Doughnut before. With Match Tea being all the rage at the moment I had to give it a try and it didn’t disappoint. These sourdough doughnuts are on another level! Seriously indulgent but seriously worth it.

Rebel Kitchen – Raw Coconut Water

rebel

From indulgence to innocence…this refreshing coconut water has no additives so it naturally turns pink in the bottle. I’d never seen coconut water with this pink glow before but apparently they’re the result of naturally occurring phenols (anti-oxidants to you and me). It tasted different to other coconut water brands and was lovely and refreshing. I’ll be stocking up on it!

xXx

 

Hipster BBQ Guide

Well, the barbecue season is *technically* here, British weather permitting as usual. If you’re tired of seeing the same old things at a barbecues, here’s my guide to shaking it up a little.

Meat matters

I won’t go into the meat too much, suffice to say this should be locally sourced, from a farmshop, farmers market or quality butchers. You can eat supermarket meat on any other day of the week, get the organic, tender, aged, best you can buy for a BBQ. Plus, it’s better for our farmers and animals.

Plant-based popularity 228798011_0_640x640

Increasingly people are opting for more plant-based diets these days, veggie and veganism is more in fashion than ever, so make sure you’ve got this covered. I recommend these Aromatic Moroccan Veg Cakes from Great Foods (you can get them on Ocado, naturally). These are delicious and may event tempt a few meat eaters too.

Shrimp on the barbie

Don’t forget about the pescatarians too, this is a very popular way of life (I pretty much live it). As a child we would use freshly caught scallops to make our own family version of coquille st jacque on the barbecue – but to be honest a nice bit of salmon, king prawns or fish kebabs will do just as well.

Bye baps, hello brioche 

Yes, even bread has had an update. It’s out with the baps and in with the brioche buns with their beautiful golden shine. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a hearty burger and should be top of your shopping list.

Gin is inbrockmans-gin

Unless you’ve been living on the moon recently, you’ll know that gin is in. The quirkier and more unusual sounding your gin, the better! If you can get a locally distilled gin (like Hampshire’s very own Twisted Nose), that’s ideal. Another recommendation from me is Brockmans Gin, just make sure you’ve got the grapefruit peel, or at least the blueberries to go with it. If all else fails, Sipsmith is a great choice and it’s available in supermarkets. The mixer matters too, step away from the Schweppes and pick up the Fever-Tree Tonic, it’s the best!

Anyone for tea?hb

For something a little lighter but still alcoholic check out Harry Brompton’s Alcoholic Ice Tea for some sweet refreshment. It’s delicious and free from artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. You’ll be supporting a lovely British brand too, so cheers to that.

British bubbles

If it’s a celebratory barbecue occasion, cast aside the Prosecco and opt for an English sparkling wine – there are some truly fantastic ones out there. If you don’t have time to get to a local wine shop (like Winchester’s fabulous Wine Utopia), supermarkets like Waitrose have a few English wines these days, like the lovely Nyetimber.

Super saladssalad

Last but not least, the salad, often overlooked, people tend to think of it as that person at a party no-one really likes but you have to invite anyway. Personally, I don’t feel this way and put a great deal of effort into my salad making. I recommend adding cous cous or quinoa into the mix for a bit of texture and flavour. Use plenty of fresh herbs too, a little chopped coriander, mint and chives (my salad favourites) make a world of difference to how a salad tastes. I like to add a little feta cheese or mozzarella as well. Keep your salads bright with plenty of vegetables and textures and they’re sure to be more popular. I say that it’s high time salad stopped being a wallflower and took centre stage, so let’s make it happen!

Happy BBQ-ing everyone, fingers crossed for a glimpse of sun again!

xXx

P.S. Don’t forget your mason jars to drink out of.

 

 

 

10 Things you’ll relate to if you’re on the Fast Diet

Many of you will know I’m an advocate of the fast diet, it works for me – I’ve lost weight and easily maintained this without much of a compromise on my lifestyle. I can still eat out a lot and eat what I fancy in restaurants but with two low-calorie days I keep the weight off. That said, there a few common feelings which I think anyone on a fast day can relate to…

1) Fast days = early nights

nap

On a fast day I do feel a little weary by 8pm and don’t want to risk an evening nibble or trip to the biscuit tin, so it usually means an early night! Luckily I love my bed and falling asleep isn’t usually a problem for me.

2) You plan/dream about things you’re going to eat on non-fast days!

Cupcake

I can usually stick to my fast days pretty well but I do definitely day dream about what I’ll eat the next day when I’m not fasting! A croissant, a full fat latte, even just a couple of slices of buttered toast are delicious treats to look forward to.

3) You’ll never look at certain high calorie foods the same way

pizzalarge2

I don’t mean you won’t eat them but you’re just more aware of what you’re putting into your body. 250 calories for just a slice of Dominoes! Half my daily fast day allowance in one little pizza slice – I still get a takeaway pizza on occasion but I do it knowing it’s really not good for me and a fast day needs to follow!

4) MyFitness Pal is everything

mfpiphone1

Where would I be without this calorie counting app? Almost all foods are already listed in there and there’s a handy barcode scanner to let me add anything I’ve just snacked on. It’s so satisfying to complete a fast day and feel saintly as you see your 500 calories on the display before bed time! I don’t use it much on my non fast days but I still find myself mentally trying to work out the calories.

5) Weighing yourself after a fast day is the best

weight

You’re never lighter than first thing in the morning after a fast day – so that’s the only time I ever weigh myself! It’s encouraging to see the slightly lighter weight (or that you’ve not gained despite a heavy weekend, which may have included the aforementioned takeaway pizza). I find it motivates me to keep up with the 5:2 lifestyle.

6) You REALLY look forward to meals out (and indulging guilt free!)

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Everyone loves dinner out but when you’re on the fast diet it’s especially exciting. You’re obviously not going to do a fast day when you’ve got dinner out so the possibilities of what you can eat seem extra delicious and exciting…chips, steak, cheese, dessert – I enjoy a meal out without feeling guilty at the indulgence.

7) You know the calorific content of almost everything (and it bothers you if there’s something you can’t instantly recall the calorie content of)

Apple with nutriton facts

That’s me, an encyclopaedia of calorie knowledge! I’m like the rain man of calories! Partly through My Fitness Pal, partly through my own obsessiveness – I know roughly how many calories most things have…I think most serious fast dieters do too.

8) You know which processed and on-shelf snacks are healthiest/have the least calories

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This one’s closely related to number seven – but if you’re on the move and not someone who’s batch cooked healthy fast day treats then you will reach for the convenient on-shelf snacks that are readily available and incorporate them into your daily allowance. A few of my favourites that don’t get me into too much trouble with calorie counting are Wotsits (90 calories), Weight Watchers Caramel Wafers (79 calories), Proper Corn Sea Salted Popcorn (84 calories) and very occasionally a Club chocolate biscuit (115 calories).  I know I should eliminate some of these things from my diet all together – but snacks are everywhere and realistically many fast dieters will reach for them like I sometimes do.

9) It’s easier to go meat free on a fast day

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Works well if you’re doing Meat Free Monday! It’s much easier to stay within 500/600 calories if you cut out the the meat and go veggie instead. There are some reasonable veggie sausages out there for as little as 64 calories each, much easier to make a meal out of! Bacon medallions are the only meat which does sometimes fit into a fast day.

10) You miss lattes and cappuccinos 

pcup(2)

I know I’m all about tea, I really am but I do love a good takeaway coffee during the working day. It’s a no-no on a fast day though, even a lovely skinny latte can still have going on for 100 calories in and they aren’t calories that will keep you full. So fast days are often coffee-free – lucky I love tea so much really!

11) It can be really hard to avoid alcohol

wine

Have you ever tried doing a fast day on a Friday? It’s really hard not to crack at the end of the working week, just for glass of wine while watching Graham Norton…but unless you’ve eaten nothing else that day – you cannot fit the wine-time calories in. And if you’ve eaten nothing, there’s not much point in having wine as one glass will go to your head! I generally avoid fasting around the weekends – what’s the point? Weekends are for wine and cocktails!

10) Soup is your friend!

soup

Filling, healthy and often low-calorie…soup is a faster’s best friend. Covent Garden’s Carrot and Butternut Squash at 80-something calories per bowl is a particular fast day dinner win for me.

Would you agree? If you’re a fast dieter too I’d love to hear your experiences!

xXx

Coffee Festivities

Life is pretty busy as a freelancer, so my FoodTeaLife posts have become a little sporadic but I still find time to get out and about doing foodie things (mostly eating!). There just seems to be less time to write about it all. However one thing I am making the time to write about is the recent London Coffee Festival.

The smell on arrival was heavenly! The fresh coffee scent just surrounded us and it wasn’t long before we purchased our first caffeine-filled beverage. The bright and early start meant a cappuccino to kick off the day was an absolute must. My first coffee of the day was accompanied by a slice of toast spread with avocado and vegemite, a strangely good combination.  Wandering around I saw coffee demonstrations, plenty of quirky things to buy and try and something which turned out to be a real highlight, a Kalhua coffee cocktails bar!

kahlua coffee bar

Mixologists or baristas? The busy Kahlua bar staff creating coffee cocktails

 

We started off with a couple of White Russians, who doesn’t love their creamy coffee goodness?

White Russians

Delicious White Russians!

 

There was one cocktail on the menu we simply had to sample…Espresso Martinis! I’ve always wanted to try one since I saw Nigella Lawson make them and what better place to try my first one than at a coffee festival?

Espresso Martini complete with three coffee beans on top

Espresso Martini complete with three coffee beans on top

 

These were certainly strong, rocket fuel in fact! But it was great to finally try an Espresso Martini.

My first Espresso Martini

My first Espresso Martini (photo courtesy of Aminah Khan)

 

I certainly left the festival buzzing and on a high fuelled by caffeine and fun times!

Coffee fun! Thanks to Aminah for the brilliant photos

Coffee fun! Thanks to Aminah for the brilliant photos

 

The festival goody bags were pretty good too – loved my sachet of Drink Me Chai’s Earl Grey Latte and the free Fox’s Caffe Thins have been going down a treat (since discovered they are great topped with a molten marshmallow!).

These yummy biscuts were a fab London Coffee Festival Freebie

These yummy biscuts were a fab London Coffee Festival Freebie

Earl Grey Latte from Drink Me Chai, another lovely festival freebie!

Earl Grey Latte from Drink Me Chai, another lovely festival freebie!

 

All in all it was a lovely, foodie day out – I’d definitely go again next year.

xXx

Festive Foodie Highlights

Well, Christmas is over but we’re still in that cosy in-between bit where it’s perfectly acceptable to eat above average levels of chocolate and/or cheese each day until New Year. I love it really, it’s like a final chance to consume all the Christmas goodies as well as enjoy any foodie gifts.

I was blessed with some beautiful gifts…many of them centred on food and tea of course! From beautiful flowering green tea to cheese accessories, gorgeous glassware, a soup set, a huge panettone and a super stocking full of all my favourite foods, I was one lucky girl this Christmas!

A few of my food themed gifts this year!

A few of my food themed gifts this year!

I did something a little different this year and spent Christmas day at the lovely Lainston House Hotel in Sparsholt, which was a lot of fun and saw plenty of food and wine consumed! Here are some of the highlights…

Lainstone House looking beautiful on Christmas Day

The driveway of Lainston House looking beautiful on Christmas Day

Potted Turbot Terrine with Caviar Dressing

A starter of Potted Turbot Terrine with Caviar Dressing

Roast turkey with chestnut and apricot stuffing and all the traditional trimmings

Roast turkey with chestnut and apricot stuffing and all the traditional trimmings

Christmas Pudding with rum custard and brandy butter

Christmas Pudding with rum custard and brandy butter

A few festive tipples later

A few festive tipples later

There were five courses of festive food in total, and whilst nothing will ever quite compare to my dad’s good old roast dinner, I have to say that Lainston House did a pretty great job of everything! We were even lucky enough to get a visit from Santa Clause himself, who gave us all a little present…

My gift from Father Christmas! Nice to see Santa giving locally sourced gifts

My gift of Hampshire Chutneys from Father Christmas! Nice to see Santa giving locally sourced gifts

After a quick cocktail in the beautiful wood-panelled cocktail lounge at Lainston House we were off to join family and friends for more food and drink! Laughter, festive viewing, turkey sandwiches and bubbles filled the rest of the day.

Boxing Day saw me heading to my family home for our traditional post Christmas meal of cold meats, pickles and homemade chips. You can’t beat it! I indulged in my usual ‘everything sandwich’ – consisting of chips, cold meat, stuffing and other leftovers, accompanied by various chutneys and pickles.

Later that day there were more bubbles and a traditional boxing day get together to attend. We were certainly all a little slow to start but as usual we soon got into the festive spirit of things with peach bellinis, champagne and lots of nibbles!

Festive fun!

Festive fun!

Now I’m looking forward to New Year’s Eve (and fitting into my clothes again!).

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, wishing you all the best for the New Year! xXx

Summer Refreshment

With the warm weather continuing I thought I might risk a summer-themed post rounding up some of the loveliest things to drink when the sun is shining. My apologies in advance if this post brings on the rain!

Red Zinger Tea
Top of my list of course is a good iced tea, while I do enjoy the varieties available in the shops it’s much more fun to make your own. Red Zinger Tea makes a great iced tea for summer – sharp, floral and fruity with a deep red colour it’s perfection with mint leaves, orange and lemon. See Martha Stewart’s recipe for Red Zinger Ice Tea here – it’s a real summertime win.

If coffee’s more your thing – you’ll love my next two choices…

iced coffee
It’s got to be an iced coffee for summer and one of my favourites is Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, which even comes in decaf and skinny varieties. I love the skinny variety, it still tastes creamy and satisfying despite being fat free and just 118 calories – every little helps with summer traditionally being the season for dieting and bikinis!

CocoCafeM
Okay so Coco Cafe’s Coconut Water Latte has already had a write-up on FoodTeaLife but I how could I not mention it in a post dedicated to refreshment?! It combines the natural refreshing hydration of coconut water with a strong espresso shot and reduced-fat milk. It’s caffeination and hydration all at the same time! The creamy coconut flavour of the whole drink is lovely too, adding a touch of tropical sunshine to caffeine consumption.

Liefmans Fruit Beer
Well now, who doesn’t enjoy a cheeky shandy on a hot summer’s day? For me a bottle of Belgium’s Liefmans Strawberry Beer is spot on for summer. It’s actually beer blended with natural the fruit juice of not just strawberries but also cherries, raspberries, billberries and elderberries – the result is a lovely sparkling blend that’s almost like a bellini.

bottle_elder
Sticking with the stronger stuff, the lime and elderflower variety of Kopparberg fruit cider is a definite barbecue must have – light and zesty it’s certainly a summertime refresher. I also don’t find it to be quite as sweet as some of the other Kopparberg varieties – so you can enjoy more than one!

Apple & Ginger
So that this post isn’t only booze and caffeine I must also give a mention to the lovely apple juices from local, Hampshire-based company Hill Farm Juices. Apple juice can be so thirst quenching and I love the wonderful selection from Hill Farm. I adore their apple and ginger variety which combines both Cox and Bramley apple juice in a deliciously sharp but sweet blend. It’s so good it’s even got a Great Taste Gold award!

firefly
I must have a bit of a thing for ginger because this next summer favourite is a blend of Lemon, Lime and Ginger from Firefly Natural Drinks. This stuff is incredibly refreshing, ideal for those mornings that follow a heavy night on the Pimms! Zingy and uplifting it’s the perfect summer pick me up.

So…feeling thirsty? What’s your favourite summer drink?

I’m off to get started on some ice tea!

xXx

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