Banana Nut Pancakes

In the past year or two, I have really taken up my running and training a lot more. You may have seen from my Instagram that I’ve recently done the Run to the Beat 10k at Wembley and the Colour Run 5k at the London Olympics Park – both of which were so much fun and I highly recommend! I’m no expert, but quite clearly food and nutrition is just as much a part of training as exercise is and I’m always looking for ways to make yummy, healthy meals. Probably my favourite meal of the day is breakfast and I always take the time over it to make it both delicious and nutritious! So introducing one of my new meals…the banana nut pancakes!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 1tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 1 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp honey

METHOD

1) Mash the ripe banana in a medium bowl and mix in the almonds

2) Beat in the egg and pour in the milk to make a pancake-like batter and pour into a measuring jug.

3) Spray some oil into a frying pan and pour the pancake mixture (unlike standard pancakes, these keep their shape a lot more once poured so pour the mixture to desired size). This mixture should make two large pancakes.

4) After a couple of minutes (keeping an eye on the bottom!), flip the pancake over to cook the other side.

5) Once finished, place on a plate and adorn with the yoghurt, honey and nuts.

This was my first attempt and so was slightly burnt as I wanted to make sure the batter was cooked all the way through but hopefully yours will look a little prettier!

I also added some blueberries too!

A breakfast with a good balance of carbohydrate and protein and so the perfect meal before a busy day or a big workout (not to mention yummy!)

Crete 2.0

After our trip to the church, we got back on the minibus and headed off to our next destination: the ancient city of Lato, now an archaeological site. The ruins were like a growns up giant playground – it wasn’t like some of these other ancient cities, such as Pompeii, where most things are roped off and it’s very much a “look but don’t touch” atmosphere, instead you had free roam to run down the streets, in and out of houses, up the steps of the outdoor theatre and the temple…it’s really quite an amazing experience. It was abandoned around 200BC and whilst a lot of it does look like rubble, you can make out foundations and with a good imagination, picture what the town would have looked like. It felt quite surreal standing on streets that were used over thousands of years ago.

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What’s more, Crete has a very mountainous terrain and Lato is built at the top of one of these many mountains, meaning that the views were breathtaking…especially after you’ve clambered over the ruins to the top!

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This was after we drove to the entrance of Lato

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and this is the beautiful panoramic view after climbing to the very top!

Just to the left of the shot, you can look down to the sea and see the town of Agio Nikolaos, which we also ventured to…but not quite yet! For our next stop was Kritsa, the beautiful small town Cretan town. When you think of a Greek island, you conjure up images of cobbled streets, elderly couples hiding from the sun in the shade and inviting kafenions, and what you thinking of is Kritsa! We wandered up and down the streets and just soaked in the simplistic beauty of it all. Even the shopkeepers are some of the nicest and politest people you could wish to meet and we came away with bags full of olive oil, nougat, baklava and jars of honey. We also got to sample (lots!) of Raki in many different flavours, a popular spirit in Crete that is often cheaper than bottled water!

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Finally, our last destination was the city of Agio Nikolaos. Back in the day, it was the port town for Lato but now it is considered more of a tourist destination. Despite this, it still has a lovely charm about it and doesn’t yet feel destroyed by hordes of tourists and tourist shops.

streets of Agio Nikolaos

It was here, by the Lake Voulismeni that we settled for lunch and I finally got to indulge in a Greek favourite, pork Gyros. I felt that with the pita bread the additional chips were unnecessary but in my trip to Crete I became addicted to tzatziki, the white dip on the side, and could have had bowls of it!

lake pork gyros

The rest of the day, like the rest of the holiday, was spent lazing on the beach and I can’t wait to go back! (Or go away anywhere now that summer really feels like it’s coming to an end…)

P.S. these photos are an accumulation from both my camera and my sister’s so credit must be given to her too!

The Idyllic Greek Island Life

So I haven’t posted anything on here for a while and that is because I had the pleasure of joining my family on a holiday to Crete. We’ve spent the past few summers over on the mainland, in northern Greece (Halkidiki to be precise) and so wanted a slight change. And oh wow did we get what we wanted – Crete was beautiful: the weather, the beaches, its incredible ability to have tourist attractions that don’t feel ruined  by tourists (yet…) and one thing that really helped was the gorgeous resort we stayed at, Daios Cove. The hotel is essentially built into the cove and has its own private beach. The architecture is such that the hotel doesn’t look at all garish and looks as if part of the cove itself, made in a similar rock to the cove. The crystal blue waters of the sea along with the hotel’s infinity pool that overlooks the cove makes you feel like you’re in heaven on earth, not to mention the delicious food served at buffets as well as the two restaurants…I could not recommend this place enough! Let me give you just a glimpse of what it felt like to stay there…

Firstly, just look at that view!

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Mornings spent swimming in the pool…

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Followed by the pool bar and Greek or iced coffees…

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Fresh fruit for lunch on the beach…

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And an afternoon lazing around on the sand, dipping in and out of crystal clear waters and reading an incredible book set in the very place you’re soaking up the sun (The Island, by Victoria Hislop – huge fan of her books and this one made for an emotional read, set in Crete about the old leper colony island, Spinalonga – will have to be back soon to visit it!).

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Then, once you’ve had enough sun for the day you can retire to your hotel room, have a shower and relax in those cosy hotel dressing gowns with a cup of tea and that view…quickly followed by pre-dinner cocktails and wine! I told you it was like heaven!

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But of course, we had come to Crete and we wanted to see what the island had to offer outside of the resort. So off we set for a day of Cretan adventures! First off, we visited the church of Panagia Kera, just near the town of Kritsa. The church originates from the Byzantine period and this particular church is considered the most important in the area. From the outside, the church isn’t especially overwhelming and apart from a very subtle cross at the top, it could be easy to not realise the significance of the building. However, once you step inside it is a very different story. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed but I have never seen such a heavily decorated interior, where every inch of the inside was ordained with Byzantine frescos, each telling a different story. This was a huge contrast to the white walls lit up by the sun outside and there was definitely a more sober and somber mood once inside the church. This was the perfect moment for some reflection and gratitude. Once we stepped outside the church, we noticed a small shop and cafe and it was browsing little off the road places like these that we really felt we were in Crete.

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Well I have inundated this post with lots of pictures so I’ll post again soon with the rest of the day’s adventures which includes the archaeological site of Lato, the beautiful traditional Cretan town of Kritsa and the city of Agios Nikolaos and obviously lots more pictures!

Ping!

I had heard so much about Ping – the table tennis venue in Earl’s Court – and I had been looking for an excuse to go! A few weeks ago, I went to a friend’s 21st and in the drunken/hungover antics the next morning we began to knock about on the ping pong table and the competitive spirit began to brew. A few rounds later, a group of us had decided to battle it out at a future date, which before long had come around! I am a very competitive person but unfortunately ping pong is not amongst my skills set, so for me this was just a bit of fun…but my friends disagreed!

To start off the fun (and give myself some liquid confidence) we began with a few drinks and oh my – they were delicious! I started off with a passionfruit martini followed by a “Good Thyme” i.e. gin, elderflower and thyme. I was a bit skeptical at first at the thought of thyme in an alcoholic beverage but everyone agreed the combination of flavours was yummy! Plus I’m always one that loves a good pun so the drink was perfect for me.

passionfruit martini Good Thyme

Then the battle was on! The others were all so good, me…not so much.

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So in the end we played doubles and singles, mixing and matching the pairs up and playing games such as “King of the Court”. Overall, it was such a good laugh and I’ve come away now wanting to improve my skills to shock them all and smash it next time – because I will be back! They had great music, not to mention again the delicious drinks and as the night went on, the lights went down and the tables were lit from above in different colours (very cool but very distracting if you’re as competitive as me).

If you want a great night out with friends, or somewhere different for a date (there were lots of couples hidden away in the corners…) then this is definitely somewhere you have to try! You want to get in early though as the tables go quick but they also serve food if you’re getting peckish or play hard enough. Definitely a great night out and very much recommended!

http://www.weloveping.com/

A (rainy) weekend in Cambridge

The summer is quickly escaping us and I felt a sudden desire to make the most of it whilst I still can! A couple of my housemates that I’ve been living with for the past three years at university have their childhood homes in the beautiful Cambridge and considering I’ve never been before, I was really excited to go stay for the weekend.

With one off to do a ski season soon, another about to start a full-time job in the City and another heading back up North to do her masters, we were like giddy school girls again when we were reunited. After a two hour drive from Surrey to Great Gransden, we settled in for the afternoon in the most appropriate way – with a big pot of tea, chocolate biscuits and a natter in the garden! After some umm-ing and uhhh-ing all afternoon about how to spend our evening, we settled on wine and curry and cuddled up on the sofa to watch Sex and the City (can you think of a better way to spend your Saturday night?).

The next morning we got up early with the intention of heading into Cambridge city centre to be proper tourists by walking around the colleges and go punting. Unfortunately, in typical British style, the weather decided that wasn’t going to happen and it began raining…a lot. Although, being British after all, a spot of rain was never going to stop us! We still wandered around the beautiful city, armed with umbrellas, and admired the colleges comparing how different the university lifestyle must have been against ours in Newcastle.

Then came my favourite bit: The Fudge Kitchen. Fudge is probably my all-time favourite naughty treat and this particular fudge is one of the best I’ve ever tasted! We watched how they made it: boiling all the ingredients in what looked like a large cauldron (on the backdrop of King’s College, it felt like a scene out of Harry Potter!) and then seemingly folding the gooey fudge on a large slab table until it resembled the fudge pieces we expect and love.

fudge making at the Fudge Kitchen, Cambridge

We also got to try some samples (lots and lots of samples…) with some interesting flavours such a peanut butter and mocha – all very delicious, although my favourite has to be the simple vanilla. This was quickly followed by a stop at Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe where there were all the classic favourite sweets that I have loved since I was little, plus all the quirky American ones…it was just like being, well, a kid in a sweet shop! (grown up kids anyway..)

A jolly Jelly Bean portrait of Wills and Kate

After purchasing a few gifts (I would be in serious trouble at home if I didnt) we headed off for some quick refreshments of iced teas and coffees and yet more gossiping and catching up.

Ice tea in Cambridge

It wasn’t long before we started getting peckish and after all the sweet treats, we were desperately craving something savoury! So we headed to Bill’s for some lunch and here we ordered a selection of starters and sides and decided to have it tapas style: sweet potatoes, tortillas with various dips, chicken pate and chutney, crudites and humous, halloumi cheese and skinny fries – a slightly different Sunday lunch to normal (but delicious all the same)!

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Unfortunately, after the bill was paid and before long it was already time to say our goodbyes. I wish that I had been able to see more of Cambridge and would LOVE to go punting but it just means that I’ll have to be back again soon!

A Level Results

Today is that dreaded day in the UK when 1000s of students who have worked so hard for two years and waited for (what’s felt like endless) months finally open that envelope that determines their future (or nowadays it’s more like logging online but that doesn’t sounds quite so dramatic). There will be lots of students elated with their results, there will be the ones that just scraped by and then there are those that feel devastated because no matter how hard they worked, they didn’t get what they wanted, expected or felt they deserved.

Three years ago, I fell into that final category. It was one of the most competitive years for university places as it was the final year before fees went up and simultaneously, my first choice offer included an A* – so the pressure was on! I have always been exceptionally hard working and ambitious so the expectations I had put on myself were high. Despite achieving grades that I am now proud of, at the time I thought I had failed myself – everything I had worked for since the beginning of secondary school had been to get good grades and go to a good university and that now felt like a complete waste. All of my school friends had done amazingly well and got into their first choice universities and I felt so awful because the only emotion I could feel towards them was jealousy; I felt so guilty because I wanted to be proud! It also meant I had no one to turn to: none of my friends could relate to me so I ignored everyone’s calls for weeks, too ashamed; as the eldest child, my younger siblings didn’t understand the significance of the situation; and as the first person in my immediate family to go to university, I didn’t satisfy the criteria of being the “clever one” anymore. I could safely say this was one of the worst days of my life so far and I had battled several demons before then. That feeling of not being good enough still haunts me sometimes and I know there will be some poor 17/18 year olds feeling the same way today.

BUT the point of this post is NOT to be a depressive rant about results. In fact, even though at the time I felt like my world had fallen apart, it is only now with hindsight I can see that it was the BEST thing that could have happened to me. My insurance choice for university turns out to have been EXACTLY what I needed and wanted and I have evolved so much in the past three years. I’m not the same person I was three years ago – I’m better, more confident, more mature (and I now hava “BA Hons after my name!) and the list goes on. I have made some incredible friends that I never would have met otherwise and when I look back at my first choice university, I can see that it wasn’t for me at all. I would have been so bored and needed to escape the “Surrey bubble”, which I wouldn’t have done at a university nicknamed, “Surrey-on-Sea”. I ignored everyone who said “it’ll all work out for the best” – what do they know?! But now I truly believe in the mantra: “everything happens for a reason” and it’s scary but it’s the best way to stay positive and embrace every opportunity, even though it make not feel like one at the time.

The reason results are particularly on my mind today are because my younger brother has just had to go through this tumultuous time himself and I like to think it was that little bit easier for him, having me here for support after what I’d been through myself. None of us slept well last night and we got up (early!) this morning to the news he’d got into university! Similarly to me, he got his insurance choice but the mood at home today compared to three years ago could not be more different despite a very similar scenario. This is because we now all trust in fate and destiny and know that if it all worked out for me, it’ll all work out for him too! Whatever happens, good or bad, it is VITAL you let out your emotions (I spent a day in bed with the blinds down crying into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s) BUT then you must get off your arse and carpe diem (I made sure it was only a day…and then went shopping for university supplies, retail therapy always helps me!).

So whether you got your results today – or you’re the support network for someone else that has, remember: everything happens for a reason! You should be proud no matter what the result. It’s at this time in our lives when we start to discover who we really are, some of us are academic, some are not – but ambition isn’t quantifiable. Find what it is you are good at or at least really enjoy and then make something out of that!

Due to my role in my brother’s support network (and my ability to find ANY excuse to bake) – I made my brother one of his favourites, a lemon drizzle cake!

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Accompanied with a champagne breakfast (as you do!)

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We’ll be off to a celebratory lunch later which I cannot wait for either. It’s now I see just how exhausting and trying it is being the supporting one for once and I think we all deserve to celebrate with him!

I hope that lots of you are out celebrating today too and enjoying the rest of the summer…before the hard work starts all over again! Finally..well done!!

Nutty chocolatey banana bread…

So this is my first post and I can’t really think of a better way to start than with a delicious recipe! Banana bread is one of my all time FAVOURITE cakes and the perfect excuse to use up black bananas that just aren’t appealing to eat on their own anymore. There is always the basic, simple and quite frankly scrumptious banana bread that is baked in a similar way to a standard sponge (expect a recipe on this soon!) – however, when I can, I like to make a healthy twist and this recipe doesn’t include the flour, eggs and cups of sugar you’d normally expect.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ¾ cups rolled oats
  • 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut/almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ cup of milk
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Walnuts
  • Chopped hazelnuts

Preheat your oven 200C/390F and line a baking tin with parchment paper.

Put all ingredients (except the choc chips and nuts) into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Fold ½ of the choc chips and all walnuts into mixture.

Pour into baking tin and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips and halzelnuts on top (if you’re anything like me, 1/2 of the misture will end up in the baking tin and the other 1/2 mysteriously disappears…into your mouth)

Bake for 20 mins and leave to cool and set before tucking in – perfect accompaniment to a cuppa and slightly less guilty than a bog standard banana cake. Enjoy!