Infographic: Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Superfoods

My husband will regularly come to bed and have a last minute check of his social media before going to sleep and I have often noticed that his mobile phone’s screen looks a bit funny in the evening.

When I asked him about it Vlad told me that his phone has a blue light filter which means it removes all blue light emitted by the screen after a certain time as blue light can be bad for sleep.

I love to read before bed and I have a serious dependency on my Kindle to supply me with e-books while I am tucked up in bed. I have never really been worried about blue light as I usually get a decent night’s sleep, but on those occasional nights where I can’t get to sleep could blue light be to blame?

Short-wavelength, high-energy blue light scatters more easily than other visible light so it is not as easily focused. When you’re looking at digital device screens this unfocused visual “noise” reduces contrast and can contribute to digital eye strain. Blue light sources are becoming increasingly common in today’s environment, including computers, smartphones, televisions and lights.

Studies suggest that, over time, exposure to the blue end of the light spectrum could cause serious long-term damage to your eyes such as macular (retinal) degeneration. Natural exposure to blue light during the daylight hours boosts people’s energy, alertness and mood.

Elongated exposure to the blue light given off by screens during the evening can disrupt circadian rhythm and cause various health effects including a disruption in normal sleep schedules, as we have evolved being exposed to these waves during the day, not at night!

A study undertaken by Thomas Jefferson University neuroscientist George Brainard compared participants who read on light-emitting devices before sleep to those who read a regular book. Those exposed to blue light took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep and had higher alertness before bedtime. Those who read on the light-emitting device were sleepier and took longer to wake up.

So, what can you do help protect your eyes from this sort of damage? I recently came across this infographic from Focus Clinics which suggests a healthy diet including lutein and zeaxanthin helps support the retina. Kale comes out on top when it comes to eye superfoods with cress and spinach close runners up.

Do you use your phone or ebook reader in bed? Maybe it’s time to rethink!

focus-superfoods-infographic

Review: The Coconut Collaborative Lemon Dessert Pots

I discovered the Coconut Collaborative a few years ago when looking for diary-free alternatives for delicious puddings for my husband who tries to avoid milk where possible.

The Coconut Collaborative was founded in 2014 by two guys who wanted to spread the love for the humble coconut, connecting like-minded coconut companies and producing coconut treats, all the while giving something back to the planet and its people. They work with Pur Project to plant thousands of coconut trees which in return regenerates the land and provides habitat for wildlife and income for communities.

The coconut has seen a huge rise in popularity recently as many people have inspected their diets and have decided to get on board with clean eating, dairy-free trends. Coconut milk contains essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that supply a host of benefits to the human body.

I recently discovered a new product in the Coconut Collaborative range ‘Little Lemon Temptations’ which launched last month. These are little pots of thick, coconut cream blended with real lemon juice for ultimate dessert satisfaction and a great palate cleanser to finish off a meal.

‘Little Lemon Temptations’ are of course free from dairy but they also contain no soya or gluten, they are packed with the goodness of coconuts and contain just 125 calories per 45g serving size. If you are someone who is looking to remove dairy from your diet but doesn’t want to miss out on pudding these make a lovely sweet treat.

I really loved the flavour of the lemon dessert pots which are super creamy, smooth and sumptuous, however, personally I would like a bigger citrus kick to offer a real contrast to the creaminess. I have to admit that I do find the small serving size a little sad as I would love to dive into a bigger portion but if you’re looking for a small treat then this is a great option.

Overall I really like the ‘Little Lemon Temptations’ dessert pots, they make a fantastic dairy-free option which everyone will want to have! I award them 4 out of 5 stars.

coconut collaborative lemon pots

coconut collaborative lemon pots

 

Review: Chocolate bars with a protein punch

Have you jumped on the protein trend yet? Lots of products have been released over the last year or so hoping to help us get the right amount of protein to keep our bodies healthy and to boost athletic performance.

The recommended amount of protein is 0.8g per kg of body weight or 0.36g per lb. This amounts to 56g per day for the average man, 46g per day for the sedentary woman. Of course, active people and athletes would be looking to intake more.

Sales of protein shakes and bars have soared 27% in two years, from £52 million to £66 million. One in ten consumers now claimed to have eaten a protein bar in the last three months. However, some products aren’t always very pleasant to consume, having a powdery texture and chalky taste.

Snickers, Mars and Bounty have all launched a protein-rich version of their chocolate bars recently, allowing you enjoy a tasty treat at the same time as taking in a protein boost. Discount Supplements sent us one of each of these well know chocolate bars to review.

Bounty Protein

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of coconut in chocolate bars so my husband tested this one. He discovered the Bounty Protein bar had no discernable difference from the regular chocolate bar which is a positive as some protein-rich products can have a strange texture. The bar had the classic coconut taste you expect from Bounty with the addition of 19g of protein per bar with the bar coming in at 192kcal with 5.7g of fat. The original Bounty bar comes in at 139 calories with 1.1g of protein. If you’re a fan of coconut and chocolate then this might be a good way for you to get some additional protein in your diet.

Snickers Protein

I love Snickers chocolate and peanut bars, so I was very happy to test this one. The Snickers Protein Bar is a delicious combination of nuts, caramel and chocolate with a soft nougaty centre with again no discernable difference from the regular chocolate bar (no odd texture or chalky taste). The bar has boasts 18g of protein, 7g fat and has a calorific value of 199. For comparison, the original Snickers bar comes in at 245kcal with 4.5g of protein. I could certainly see myself slipping a couple of these into my gym bag for a post-workout snack, although at nearly 200 calories I’d have to be careful how many I ate! 

Mars Protein

Again Vlad wanted to try the Mars Protein bar, which combines caramel and chocolate for that distinctive Mars taste. Once more there is no discernable difference from the regular chocolate bar (no odd texture or chalky taste). The bar comes in at 200 calories with 4g of fat and 19g of protein. Compared to the regular Mars bar which has 2.2g of protein and 230kcal  it certainly makes for an enticing protein-rich alternative.

For me, taste has to be the major factor when taking any sort of supplementary food products as  I am unlikely to keep having something which tastes awful even if it is supposed to be good for me! These special protein-rich editions have no discernable difference from their regular, delicious chocolate bar originals and make it easy and enjoyable to get more protein.

I would be weary of people forgetting that they do also contain fat, sugars and salt which can be harmful in large doses, however, I am happy to award them 4 out of 5 stars as an alternative to less tasty options!

protein chocolate bars

Recipe: Russian Egg & Sweetcorn Salad

I love learning about recipes from my husband’s family traditions including this super simple and delicious Egg & Sweetcorn Salad which we enjoyed alongside a traditional English Easter roast dinner a few weeks ago.

I think of this recipe as a bit of a hybrid, incorporating the texture and flavours of egg mayonnaise and sweetcorn relish with a garlic kick!

This recipe is versatile and you can easily make it larger by multiplying the ingredients. You can also choose to decrease or increase the amount of garlic and mayonnaise in the recipe to taste. You can use fresh or thawed, frozen sweetcorn in the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Hard boiled eggs, diced
  • 340g Sweetcorn
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed
  • 3 tbsp Mayonnaise

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Decorate with fresh herbs, vegetables etc.
  4. Enjoy!

This makes a great side dish to any meal and it is so quick and easy to make but packs a big flavour punch. You could also use it as a vegetarian-friendly sandwich filler!

russian egg and sweetcorn salad

Recipe: Russian Olivier Salad (Оливье салат)

Over the Easter period my mother-in-law came to visit and on Easter Sunday she made some salads from Eastern Europe where she comes from, to go with our traditional family roast lamb and trimmings. One of these was the Russian Olivier Salad (Оливье салат).

This salad is a traditional dish in Russian cuisine, which is also popular in many other European countries including Iran, Israel and Mongolia as well as Latin America. It is usually served during times of celebration such as New Year’s Eve and religious days, such as Easter.

There are many adaptions of the recipe but it is usually made by combining vegetables, dill pickles, eggs, meat and seasoned with salt, pepper and dressed in mayonnaise. The following is my mother-in-law’s family recipe. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Diced Boiled Potatoes
  • Diced Boiled Carrots
  • Diced Brined Dill Pickles (or any pickled cucumber)
  • Green Peas
  • Diced Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Diced Raw Onions
  • Diced Cooked/Smoked Ham (or any cooked meat)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Mayonnaise

Method:

  1. Add all the ingredients into a large bowl and combine
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  3. Decorate with fresh herbs/ sliced raw vegetables
  4. Enjoy as a side dish or on its own!

Olivier (Russian) salad

Review: Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Spread

My sister recently made an extraordinary discovery in her local shop: Reese’s peanut butter chocolate spread! After she shared the news I decided to go out and get some for myself, having always been a major Reese’s cup junkie and I was lucky enough to have found it in my local Sainsburys.

H.B. Reese introduced his famous peanut butter cups in 1928 and since then the product line has grown to include a large range of flavours and mixed with different forms including dark chocolate, snack-sized pieces, and candy bars *wipes drool away*.

Although the peanut butter chocolate spread was officially launched a few years ago I had never seen it available before! Designed to take on Nutella, Hershey’s recommends dipping healthy snacks such as apples and celery or spreading on toast. Of course, I wouldn’t mind eating it on its own with a spoon either…

It tastes just as you would expect it to; DELICIOUS! If you were to take some Reese’s cups and melt them into a jar you would basically have the spread. It is made up of the rich Hershey’s chocolate that we know and love, combined with a powerful peanut punch complete with that familiar grainy texture which you find in the cups.

The Reese’s peanut butter chocolate spread comes in jars of 368g which I think will last a good amount of time; although it tastes amazing you can’t eat too much at one time, just like peanut butter. You do need to keep in mind that it’s not a health food, although this shouldn’t really shock you! 2 tbs contains 190 calories, 12g of fat, 21g of carbohydrate, 19 of them sugars.

I have really loved enjoying spreading Reese’s peanut butter chocolate spread onto hot cross buns as of late. YUM. If you’re a fan of Hershey’s Reese’s range of chocolate treats you will simply adore this spread, like I do! I award it 5 out of 5 stars and can’t wait until I have my next fix!

Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Spread

 

3 easy vegetarian BBQ dishes

As the weather starts getting better and more days are bright and sunny we naturally start thinking about enjoying the great outdoors and taking advantage of the beautiful countryside. One of the best ways to do this is to hold a barbeque where you can get friends and family together to enjoy great food and celebrate the good weather.

Unfortunately as a vegetarian being invited to a BBQ can be a bit of a worry, especially if it’s an invitation from someone who might not realise that I don’t eat meat. Luckily there are lots of great meat-free options for vegetarians which can be cooked or prepared for such an occasion, like these three recipes from Real Foods, which use bold flavours and fresh ingredients to make delicious dishes that even meat-eaters will enjoy!

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Tofu

  • 300g plain firm tofu, sliced into 1cm slices
  • 200ml BBQ sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp chilli sauce
  • 1 tsp crushed chillies
  1. Whisk together the BBQ sauce, tamarind paste, chilli sauce and crushed chillies to create your marinade.
  2. Place the tofu slices in the marinade making sure to coat both sides well.
  3. Marinate for at least 1 hour.
  4. Put the tofu on the BBQ and grill for 4 or 5 minutes on each side.
  5. Serve hot with a side salad or grilled vegetables.

BBQ baked sweet potatoes

  • 8 medium sweet potatoes
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • Prepare your potatoes by rubbing each one with little oil and salt, then wrap them in foil.
  • When the coals on the BBQ are glowing red, put the foil-wrapped potatoes directly on them.
  • Cook for 30 minutes, turning half way through.
  • Test the potatoes are cooked all the way through before peeling back the foil, cutting each potato in half.
  • Top with a spoonful of yoghurt and a few spring onion slices.

BBQ Grilled portobello burgers

  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms
  • 2 toasted ciabatta rolls
  • Sliced red onion
  • Sliced tomato
  • Rocket leaves
  1. Make your sauce by combining the mustard and vinegar.
  2. Brush half of the mix over the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
  3. BBQ the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  4. Grill the tomato slices on the BBQ for around 1 minute.
  5. Apply the rest of the mustard sauce over the buns.
  6. Build your burger by stacking the tomato slices and mushroom followed by the red onion and rocket.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

food-salad-healthy-vegetables

 

Successfully organising a bar crawl

When you think about organising a bar crawl, it doesn’t seem to be much of a challenge. Well, it shouldn’t be a challenge considering it is just hopping from one bar to another, with a large group of friends.

However, if a bar crawl is not planned, and executed properly, things can go extremely haywire. After all, you don’t want one of your friends getting arrested, or in a bar fight because they were having too much fun. Sure, people are drinking, things will be chaotic, but they don’t have to end on a bad note. If you plan a bar crawl properly, it can be the day your friends will be talking about for years to come.

Keep the following things in mind when you organise a bar crawl:

Planning

Planning includes everything from sending out invitations to preparing a map for the crawl. You can’t just go waltzing around in every bar in the neighbourhood. Instead, look up bars and choose the ones where you really WANT to go.

Also keep in mind the proximity of the bars that you will be visiting. You do not want to walk 2 miles when you are already drunk. Similarly, make estimates about the crowd that will be present in the bars you plan to visit. Too much crowd might be a party killer.

Logistics

Make sure you have arrangements to get everyone home at the end of the crawl so that nobody has an excuse to drive home. You can plan your crawl to match bus or train timings.

While it is a lot of fun riding a bus when you’re drunk, if your crawl ends at 2 AM in the morning, you will need some other mode of transport. In such a case, you can call a 27X7 Milton Keynes Taxi service for everyone. This way, nobody would have to choose between driving home drunk or literally walking home.

Maintain momentum

At every bar you visit, spend only enough time for everyone to have at least one drink, and at the most, two drinks. If at any point you decide to “chill at this bar for a while”, that would, in all probability, the end of your beloved crawl.

This is a good time to remind you to pace your own drinks sensibly. Since, you are the organiser of the crawl, everyone would be looking to you for directions. In such a situation, you don’t want to end up drunk out of your senses after the third bar.

Go Social

Try to get to know new and interesting people when you are on the crawl, ask them to tag along. After all, more the merrier! (Right?)

Giving out regular updates about your location through social media will also come in handy for those who have missed the beginning and want to join the crawl mid-way. You can also inform the invitees about the destinations and approximate time you would be there in case someone has plans and would still like to join sometime during the crawl.

Conclusion

A bar crawl is the definition of having fun, if that is, you plan is properly. Also, when nobody is following the plan, don’t freak out, some unexpected surprises are welcome. Lastly, do not try to micromanage people, and don’t forget to have a whole lot of fun!

organising a pub crawl

Review: #Vegetarian lunch at Enoteca Da Luca

My sister is great at spotting excellent deals for meals out in London, so when she told me about a three-course vegetarian menu from Enoteca Da Luca I was excited to give it a go.

There are five Enoteca Da Luca restaurants in London, each with a different take on the Italian Enoteca, meaning local wine shop which in Italy serve as a local hub, serving up food and wines from the region.

The Enoteca Da Luca restaurants focus on the finest Italian ingredients inspired by the seasons and top quality, cheeses and Italian specialities. They believe in having a small, select menu and serving small plates to share to continue the Enoteca social atmosphere.

Although the restaurants have a small menu Enoteca Da Luca has an extensive wine list from the smallest to the largest Italian producers, as well as the some our favourites from all over the globe.

We visited the Enoteca Da Luca in Old Street for our meal and discovered a sleek modern restaurant which somehow captured old world charm in its wooden furniture and elegant table settings. We sat at a booth complete with squishy cushions and browsed the menu which had two choices per course.

My sister and I both went for the Burrata starter – a ball of creamy mozzarella filled with stracciatella and cream sitting on grilled aubergine and a hazelnut pesto. The presentation was impeccable and the dish looked very tempting. I loved pulling apart the cheese and combining it with the smoky aubergine and nutty pesto. I could quite happily eat this dish all day long.

Again, my sister and I chose the same main course – three perfectly cooked ravioli filled with scamorza cheese and sundried tomato, topped with a salty olive granola and fresh oregano. Despite being a small dish it was full of flavour and satisfying. I love both pasta and cheese so this was the perfect main for me, although my sister isn’t a big fan of olives which she managed to forget when choosing!

There were two options for dessert and of course we ordered one of each in order to try them both: a classic Italian tiramisu and a chocolate fondant served with vanilla ice cream and a berry compote. Unlike the fondant which arrived presented in a fairly typical manner, the tiramisu appeared served in a plant pot with a small branch of mint ‘growing’ in it which was certainly novel.

The fondant was everything you would expect it to be; a rich chocolate cake with a delicious molten centre sitting on top of a fruity and sweet compote. The tiramisu had a topping of crumbled chocolate with layers of cocoa and custard with coffee soaked sponge which was very satisfying.

Overall my sister and I very much enjoyed our three-course vegetarian lunch at Enoteca Da Luca, Old Street. The service was friendly, the food showcased fine Italian flavours and the restaurant itself was beautiful and welcoming. We award Enoteca Da Luca 5 out of 5 stars and will certainly be back in the future.

Enoteca Da Luca Old Street

Enoteca Da Luca Burrata

Enoteca Da Luca Ravioli

Enoteca Da Luca tiramisu

Enoteca Da Luca chocolate fondant

Review: Pancakes at Bill’s Restaurant

Happy Pancake Day! Are you having pancakes today? I recently visited Bill’s Restaurant recently for dinner with a friend and when I spotted the annual pancake party menu on the table I couldn’t resist!

Bill’s annual pancake party runs from Mon Feb 20 to Tue Feb 28 this year where the restaurants will be serving delicious fluffy buttermilk pancakes all day long so you can treat yourself for breakfast, lunch or dinner, like me!

The menu has three feature dishes; Lemon Cheesecake (with lemon cheesecake filling), Banana Split (with caramelised banana, strawberry and chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, strawberry sauce and whipped cream) and Salted Caramel (vanilla ice cream, salted caramel sauce and cinnamon syrup) for the ultimate sugar high.

Being the salted caramel junkie that I am, I went for the latter and was served three thick, fluffy and surprisingly light buttermilk pancakes glistening with syrup and topped with a scoop of ice cream. I was delighted, as you might imagine, to be presented with this perfectly made and totally delicious treat.

I definitely recommend you pop down to your local Bill’s today before the end of the promotion to indulge in some pancakes. I award the pancakes from Bill’s Restaurant Bluewater 5 out of 5 stars.

Bill's pancake menu

Bill's salted caramel pancakes