Friday, 30 October 2015

Halloween Treats - Healthy, Vegan & No Scary Ingredients

I love Halloween - while October starts off feeling dull and dark with a soundtrack of sneezing and spluttering, Halloween comes as a bright orange pumpkin-shaped punctuation mark in the dreariness of winter. I love the chance to carve a pumpkin, wear a ridiculous outfit and celebrate all things silly and spooky. It's also a chance to eat copious amounts of sweets (or drink copious amounts of alcohol if you are a grown-up and need something stronger than a fun-sized packet of Haribo). I decided to make something a little more virtuous - a spooky Halloween snack with no scary, un-pronounceable ingredients, no dairy, no gluten and no refined sugar.

My friend C and I demolished nearly all of these in one sitting - they are so yummy! Using ginger makes them taste really warming and autumnal and the warming effects can help treat colds and prevent nausea so in eating these you're hopefully helping to avoid becoming one of the sneezers and splutterers... I popped mine into Halloween muffin cases but they could also be rolled into balls or shaped into bars.

Halloween Treats

1. Start with Ella's raw raisin and ginger bar recipe. Shape the mixture into balls and press down into the muffin cases.

2. Make a raw chocolate topping (a table spoon of coconut oil mixed with cacao powder until smooth) and drizzle over the top.

3. Pop in the fridge overnight before sinking your fangs into one (or three...)

The star anise is for garnish. Please do not eat it. Pumpkin tealights from Waitrose.
 
vegan gluten free halloween recipe

vegan gluten free halloween recipe

vegan gluten free halloween recipe

What spooky plans do you have for Halloween?
lilylipstick
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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Winter Run Series - A 2016 Challenge?

Does anyone else find that their fitness good intentions are a little harder to keep up in the winter? I spent my summer happily setting an early alarm, running while the sun rose and being back home eating breakfast by 8am. Dark winter mornings, bad weather and the upswing in our social calendars that seems to stretch from Halloween to New Years Eve all make it that little bit harder to get out there and workout, even if we know if will make us feel better and offset those sneaky Lindor Balls (a couple managed to unwrap themselves and fly into my mouth the other day - so sneaky).

The Winter Run Series seems like the perfect way to keep up motivation - a 10km run through the streets of a major city, passing iconic landmarks and a "snow zone" on the way. Whether you're a seasoned runner hoping to improve your time (sub 1-hour 10k, please!) or a newbie - 10k is a great distance to run, if you're just starting out with running then there's time to train to get up to that distance by January (or February for the Manchester race). You can use Elle's code for getting £3 off your entry - just enter SIMPELLE when signing up.

I'll be doing the London Winter Run and hoping that it gets me motivated to keep up the outdoor running in December and January and to start the new year with a clear goal rather than waiting until 1st January and berating myself for not keeping up the running. I actually saw the London race last year when coming back from a marathon-training 10 miler and was insanely jealous that the Winter Run runners were measuring the distance in kilometres not miles and were getting water handed to them!

winter run series discount code

Let me know if you sign-up!
lilylipstick
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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Cat Cafes - Korea & Japan Edition

When planning my trip to Korea and Japan, visiting a cat cafe was high on my list. I love cats but I'm not quite there in terms of owning one myself. I also love tea and other people not being responsible for cleaning up after said cats so cat cafes rate pretty highly with me. If East Asia is a little far, London and Paris also have cat cafes - both are great fun and will satisfy your feline needs without clocking up the airmiles.

My first stop on my travels was Godabang (Cat Attic) in Myeong-dong in Seoul. I'd read about this on Tom's blog and just happened to pass a sign for one of its branches after I'd been to the Hello Kitty cafe (yes, I'm reliving my finest afternoon writing this). After finding it I made my way to the sixth floor and slightly nervously entered - I've never lived with cats and I'm actually not an "animal person" at all so I'm always a little scared at first.

After swapping my shoes for slippers in the entrance lobby, paying the entrance fee (for which you get a free drink - it worked out the same price as a slightly expensive iced green tea) and dousing my hands with hand sanitiser I took a seat at a table, connected to the free wifi and got friendly with the super cute kitties. There was no time limit on how long I could have stayed - I spent nearly two hours stroking the cats, feeding them cat food from the back of my hand (scratchy tongues!) and playing with cat toys. The owners were friendly and spoke a little English and despite all the other visitors being Korean we managed to communicate via the shared language of kitty cuteness.

cat attic seoul
The Cat Attic is on the 6th floor of this block - next to Pizza Hut! 
cat attic seoul
"Requirement of Cat"
cat attic seoul
Iced green tea and wifi.
cat attic seoul
The cat cafe menu - one drink is free as part of the entry fee.
cat attic seoul
Cat in a box.
cat attic seoul
Teddy bear cat - the yellow necktie indicates a "sensitive cat" that can only be patted on the head.
cat attic seoul
Crazy scenes at the Mulberrry sample sale.
cat attic seoul
"I woke up like dis."
In Japan, my friend T and I visited Nyantsume in Dontonburi, Osaka. The cafe is clearly sign-posted from the main street in Dontonburi and, again, after swapping shoes for slippers, paying the entrance fee (around £4) and the obligatory hand sanitiser we were given an hour to play with the kitties. A free drink was supposed to be included but it wasn't offered - we did get some chicken pieces though to feed the cats with which were very much enjoyed (by the cats, not us). The staff didn't speak English (as is the case pretty much everywhere I've been in Japan) but all of the rules and signage is in English - Osaka isn't the most touristy of Japanese cities but we got on fine all the same! The hour went by so fast and playing with the cats was the perfect antidote to the (completely amazing and please-take-me-back-there-right-now) craziness of Dontonbori.

cat cafe dontonburi osaka
The entrance to Nyantume.
cat cafe dontonburi osaka
Cat names and characteristics - Chun
cat cafe dontonburi osaka
"What's new for fall?" 
cat cafe dontonburi osaka
Cap-nap.
cat cafe dontonburi osaka
"Hi. Hello. Hey."
cat cafe dontonburi osaka
Hard at work. 
cat cafe dontonburi osaka
Little Chun - my favourite cat - the white paw is the cutest! 
cat cafe dontonburi osaka
Supercat!
Have you visited a cat cafe?

lilylipstick
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Friday, 23 October 2015

Design A Welly With Joules - Competition

The miserable rain this week made me think that wellies might be a good idea for navigating pavement puddles although the ten year-old pair that I dig out for festivals might not quite cut it in the city.

Joules have an awesome range of wellies which are definitely too good for the festival fields and for some autumnal fun have launched a design a welly competition with the winning design being put into production and sold on joules.com with all proceeds from the winning welly being donated to good causes via Charitably Joules.

Joules design a welly competition


Not only will the winner see the welly for sale but they'll also win a luxury break for three nights in a golden oak treehouse cabin plus lots more goodies worth £5,000. Ten runners-up will each receive a £250 Joules gift card.

To inspire you to get designing, here is my pair - but I'm sure you're a creative bunch and can maybe do something better!

Joules design a welly competition



Let me know if you enter and good luck! 

lilylipstick
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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Salad Secrets - Left Overs Month

Salads aren't just for summer. The shops are full of pumpkins and squashes at the moment - not only do these taste of autumn but they make a great salad addition. This month Florette challenged me to use leftovers creatively and with so many of these vegetables around and the obvious Halloween-inspired pumpkin carving there are bound to be some leftovers to use in autumnal salads rather than languishing in the fridge or ending up in the bin. Halloween aside, the amount of food we waste in the UK really is scary. Here are two easy salads that are quick to make and make use of those leftovers:

Florette baby kale recipe
Florette sent me these lovely goodies to get creative with. I love measuring cups when I'm cooking as I don't own scales and these are definitely an update on my plastic set! 
Florette baby kale recipe
The first salad uses butternut squash, goat's cheese and eggs for an easy, protein-packed dinner that can be thrown together in fifteen minutes. This would make an amazing brunch option too and leftovers can be eaten the next day. Proof that autumnal food doesn't have to be heavy and stodgy - warm salads are great for getting your nutrients in, just remember to top with a range of textures and always include some protein to make your salad satisfying.
Florette baby kale recipe
I adapted this recipe, serving it on a bed of Florette baby kale and adding a sprinkle of dukkah spice mix for a Middle-Eatern-inspired flavour. I'll definitely be trying this again which whatever cheese I have lying around as it was so quick to make and really tasty. 
Florette baby kale recipe
Using similar flavours this warm salad was so satisfying on a cold evening. Gaping mouthed pumpkin optional. 
Warm Pumpkin Salad

1. Slice some halloumi cheese into 5mm slices (or thereabouts), spray with oil and sprinkle with dukkah spice mix and smoked paprika. Fry the halloumi until golden brown and set aside.

2. Saute the baby kale until wilted, thrown in some cherry tomatoes and cooked pumpkin chunks.

3. Add the cheese back in for a final warm-through and serve.

Any type of melty cheese would work here along with any veg that needs using up. I cooked the pumpkin in the microwave but you could also roast it if you have more time.  I love the colours in this salad and it's a great source of vitamin C from the baby kale (for fighting those winter colds) and vitamin A from the pumpkin (for seeing in the dark on winter nights).

Florette baby kale recipe
My pumpkin efforts for this year. Spooky Mouth on the left and Pump-Cat on the right. I love carving pumpkins but oh the mess (and the gross string stuff inside of them - yuck)! And yes, nine of my fingers came out of this unscathed. Knives are sharp so do be careful. 
What are your tips for using leftovers? 
lilylipstick
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Sunday, 18 October 2015

Royal Parks Half 11.10.15

Last Sunday I ran the Royal Parks Half marathon. I did the race in 2013 and my memories of it were pretty good but in the run-up to the race I was pretty terrified - my training hadn't exactly been on point what with the distraction of a holiday, the previous weekend's gin consumption and falling over in the street on my final training run and smashing my iPhone screen... Running is sometimes hard to love and lately I'd been feeling a little bit "meh" about it all, favouring calmer yoga classes instead of sweaty pavement pounding.

I ran the Semi de Paris in 2:34 and at the time my aim for this was to beat 2:30 but, dragging myself out of bed at 6.30am on a Sunday my aim was just to get around the course and hopefully not take too much longer than Paris (when I was admittedly much better prepared) and then dash to the Apple Store in Covent Garden to pick up my repaired iPhone and satisfy my Instagram addiction.

The race is a big one and upon arriving at Hyde Park queues for the porta-loos and bag drop were long. I was in the yellow start so knew from the last time I ran that I wouldn't be setting off until around 9.30am anyway so took my time in the race village and headed to my start pen with minimal nervous waiting.

The first four miles felt long and slow as there were so many runners around me but after four miles I found my stride and suddenly it felt easy and natural. The setting for this race is beautiful - the blue skies, changing colours of the leaves and sunlight glinting on the Serpentine made me not miss my lie-in and distracted me from panicking about my pace and the distance. I tried not to think about how I should have done more, how I should, on my fifth half marathon, be "better" and faster and every time I had a negative thought I reminded myself to just breath and be in the moment. "Just breathe" because my race mantra and helped me push all other thoughts out of my head - for me that is the best thing about running, the medal and cake afterwards being close seconds.

After the mile nine marker I realised that actually, I wasn't doing too badly timing wise - I pushed myself to speed up a bit and the last few miles flew by and suddenly there was only 800m to go and all my worries seemed silly and insignificant. I crossed the line in 2:33 - a personal best by a whole minute and another reminder that I really need to just believe in myself a little bit more...

I still find it crazy that I run. I still can't believe that I actually ran a marathon and that this is what I do for fun. Running is intense but it teaches you so much about yourself. It makes you feel tough and strong and then at mile eleven when you run past someone running in memory of their 37 year-old husband who they lost to cancer it makes you feel like your emotions might burst out of you there and then - how can you possibly be worried about a silly race time when the world is so big and scary and who knows what the fuck is even going to happen and how lucky am I to be out in the sunshine, on a beautiful October day, crunching leaves under my trainers?

This race also taught me that being terrified about things is sometimes good. Maybe I secretly miss the yearly emotional trauma of university exams but grown-up life and the routine of work, socialise, Netflix, gym, pay bills, blah blah blah can start to feel like going through the motions and running, for me, reminds me that as much as I like lying in bed watching Food Network (a lot) I do like to push myself and feel the fear. And that cake tastes far, far better after 13.1 miles.

To add to a good day - after I picked up my iPhone I went to Pret for a coffee and got it for free because the barista said I looked so happy! This made me even happier - some days the universe just works in your favour. 

Anyone want to do this with my next year?!
lilylipstick
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Friday, 16 October 2015

Seoul Food

One thing I haven't really mentioned in my travel posts yet...the food! I knew I liked Korean food before I visited having eaten at various Korean restaurants in London and on other Asian travels but having visited it's true love! I didn't have a single bad meal and food is so reasonably priced. My unstoppable sweet tooth found a new love - patbingsu - shaved ice desserts topped with red bean, fruit, chocolate, cheese... I might have had a giant bowl of ice for lunch on a fair few occasions. Here are my foodie highlights:

hello kitty cafe seoul
Hello Kitty red bean patbingsu - topped with Kitty's face and with the red bean and mochi served on the side, this was a sweeter take on the dessert but who can resist biting into Hello Kitty's face in ice cream form?! The Hello Kitty cafe I visited is in Myeong-dong.
seoul food
Veggie udon noodles and an inflatable flamingo cupholder in the shabby-chic Kinfolk Kitchen in Myeong-dong.
ongo food cookery class
I did a cookery class with Ongo food - we started with a food market tour. Kimchi is a staple in Korea and while in the UK we only seem to have the cabbage variety, Korean markets sell all sorts of kimchi. Be warned, its a lot spicier than the UK version! 
ongo food cookery class
Proudly presenting my bibimbap! I learned to make bibimbap and a Korean salad - both very easy with professional help and the ingredients already prepared! 
ongo food cookery class
My finished bibimbap and salad. I love doing cooking classes on my travels - I'm not much of a cook in real life so I think this makes me all the more proud for managing to make something edible!  
seoul food
The best bowl of patbingsu - the reason? I was accidentally hiking up a mountain having not had lunch. When I saw the cafe I genuinely thought I was hallucinating and that it was a mirage. Perfect hiking fuel and the last few kilometres to the top of Namsam were a lot less hangry. 
126 mansion seoul
A traditional Korean feast at 126 Mansion. It was so fun to eat with our hosts and the other guests. Korean pancakes are so good!  
ongo food night tour
A night food tour with Ongo - this was so much fun. First stop was a Korean BBQ restaurant down a side street I would never find on my own. The BBQ was washed down with a cocktail containing Coke, soju and beer... not quite my usual G&T! 
ongo food night tour
Next stop on the food tour - an off the beaten track cafe for Toppoki, a Korean stew with dumplings, noodles and rice cake.  Here we sampled plum wine and played Korean drinking games which thankfully I didn't lose at! 
ongo food night tour
As night fell we were led down an alleyway (known as "Avoid Horse Alley") to a tent restaurant with hand drawn menus and loo roll hanging from the ceiling! Here we ate mackerel to boost our brain power and drank a mix of beer and soju to simultaneously lessen it... 
ongo food night tour
Our last stop was a market restaurant to eat a Korean pancake which originated in North Korea. The pancake is made of mung beans and is flour free. This was washed down with makgeolli - a milky rice-based alcoholic drink which weirdly I liked the best. Or it that could just be due to the three drinks before it. The night tour was a great way to try restaurants that you'd never find solo, order foods that might not be recognisable and be introduced to Korean drinking culture rather than ordering a G&T which turns out to be 90% gin and definitely does not contain tonic water... 
seoul food
Street food in Busan - the items on the left are frankfurter sausages encased in a sweet batter served on a stick. Korean fried chicken (KFC) and tempura make for good snack options at around 50p a go. 
seoul food
Spicy cheese-topped topokki. Korean rice cakes are a world away from the dry, diet food we call "rice cakes" in the UK. The rice cakes are dense and chewy - Asian food is often more about texture than taste but I really liked these. Covered in spicy sauce and melted cheese and with the obligatory kimchi and pickles on the side. 
seoul food
Bubble tea is Taiwanese but is popular in Korea - I tried a standard milk tea with tapioca because the menu wasn't in English and this was the only option my Korean-reading could stretch to. 
seoul food
Cheese-topped patbingsu in Hongdae. This rather odd-sounding combo actually worked.
seoul food
Last bowl of patbingsu at Wicked Snow in Gangnam - topped with golden powder, mocha and red beans. Every spoonful savoured while trying not to think of the up-coming British winter and not feeling the slightest bit guilty when my break involved impromptu 15km hikes and bike rides. 
seoul food
Airport breakfast - cheese gimbap. Gimbap (/kimbap) is Korea's version of sushi. It's a bigger, looser roll than Japanese sushi and the fillings are...varied. I saw tuna and sweetcorn, ham and cream cheese versions. 

Safe to say that sandwiches and any food that doesn't come with a large dose of spice feels sad now. Bowls of sugary ice aside, Korean food is pretty healthy so if I manage to re-create anything which is tasty and looks instragram-worthy  I will share the recipe!

Do you like / have you tried Korean food?
lilylipstick
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