Time for ‘me’

At this time of year there are so many bugs around, and I know that over half term I probably came into contact with about three different ones, not to mention the one that hubby was nursing whilst I was away. Safe to say, I caught one of them, and last Saturday, a mini-virus knocked me for six. And it got me thinking.

How do we protect ourselves from illness, stress and exhaustion? When is a good time to stop and take time for ‘me’? And, when we’re busy in our careers, bringing up young children, supporting older children, helping out with grandchildren, or any combination of the above, how do we stop our health and wellbeing from finding itself at the bottom of the list?

Limit your plans so they’re realistic
Last weekend, I had a late gig Friday night. Saturday I had organised to chat to my very patient exam case-study, look after the kids while hubby did decorating, catch up on some ironing, tidy the house (which is upside down as we are renovating the downstairs toilet), and cook some meals so we’re organised for the following week.

Even if I had been feeling well, perhaps I could have spread that workload over two days, and incorporated some much needed chill time for me in there. What does your weekend look like, and is there enough time for ‘me’ in there?

Aim for a healthy diet, combined with regular exercise
Granted, the magic combo can’t protect you from every bug going, but whatever your age it will certainly enable your body to function at it’s optimum meaning you will feel more vital when you’re not sick, and help your body to recover more quickly when you are.

Adequate sleep. 
Is essential to allow your body to repair and function at it’s best. With a young family, sleep can be a rare commodity. Get it while you can with early nights, or catch up naps. If you’re working, sometimes stress from work can prevent you from getting a good night – regular exercise is a great stress-buster, as well as rounding off the day with a warm bath and hunkering down in bed with a light read before lights out. Avoid Facebooking and emailing while you’re in bed as this can make it harder to ‘switch off’ and get the rest you need.

Call in support
Whether it’s friends, family, or bought-in, sometimes practical help is just a necessity to enable you to have the feet-up time you need. Grab yours where you can get it. Whether it’s a friend looking after the kids for a couple of hours while you get a massage, or a cleaner who can help tidy the house – own it, get help, and take charge.

Don’t wait until you’re at breaking point before taking time out
It isn’t good for you (note to self) to be at the end of your energy stores before resting and recharging. See below for how to ensure you’re never deplete of ‘me’ time!

Make time for ‘me’ today
This is the number one action you can take today to keep your wellbeing at the top of the list. Schedule time in to your diary as non-negotiable time for ‘me’. Ringfence it, say no to anything which might interrupt it (ok, except an emergency), and enjoy every second of it!

How will you be making time for ‘me’ this week?
I admit, I am a work-myself-into-the-ground-aholic. I work, study, look after the kids and family and matters of domesticity, look out for my friends, and then when I can take no more, I collapse.

I know that I would benefit from regularly taking my foot off the gas to reflect, and recharge. I also recognise that unless I do, I will simply end up too exhausted to be any good to anyone!

So, today, I am going to schedule regular ‘time for me’ into my diary – whether it’s a couple of hours to meet with a friend, a lie down with a good book, getting out into the garden to sweep leaves, listen to a favourite album or do just as I please.

When do you have your ‘me’ time? Do you have enough of it? If you could do with more, make the commitment today to allocate some into your diary – your body will thank you, and it will be another great step towards living the healthy and energised life you deserve.

‘Til next time,

Sophiex

 

No-sugar, ultra-healthy oaty cookies

No-sugar, ultra-healthy oaty cookies
So good, you’ll have a job keeping your hands off them!

Ingredients

200g pitted dates
100g flaxseed, ground (or buy pre-ground flaxseed)
200g oatmeal
100g oats
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
4 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

You will need: a bowl, a spoon, baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. The oven pre-heated to 180degrees.

 

Method

Soak the 200g of pitted dates in a jug / bowl of boiling water for approx 10 mins to soften them. While they’re soaking, grind the flaxseed then add to another bowl along with the oatmeal, oats, cinnamon and baking powder, and stir.

Mulch the dates – I used a Bamix hand food processor to make it easier – so they form a sticky paste.

Melt the 4 tbsps coconut oil, then add it, the dates, and the eggs to the oaty mixture. Stir it all together. It should be quite a sticky consistency.

Taking your greaseproof paper-lined trays, roll the mixture into balls then flatten with your hand, or the back of a spoon. Put them in the oven and cook for around 15 mins or until lightly browned.

Enjoy them as a snack on your own, or share them with the family. Delicious and nutritious, what more could you ask for?

How to be smart throughout the Festive season

Argh! Christmas is just 6 weeks away today, so on this firework night, let’s light the touchpaper and get thinking about how we can positively manage the festive season to stay feeling trim, full of energy, and looking and feeling great.

1)  Drink water.
Obvious, I know, but I also know how hard it is when the wine and cocktails are flowing to keep drinking water. To help myself out, I like drinking mine still with ice and slice of citrus, or sparkling in a cocktail glass. No-one notices once the evening’s in full flow and your body and skin are seriously going to thank you.

2) Eat dinner before you go out.
Of course, if it’s a sit-down dinner, don’t. But eating a healthy and nutritious dinner before you go out to a ‘do’ with canapes will stop you from gorging on the delicious-but-no-doubt-fried-and-full-of-fat snacks. The trick is not to then gorge on canapes as well as dinner! Trust me, I know this is hard – ask my friends, my capacity for eating catering teams out of house and home is well-known, but resist, and you’ll feel fab for it (and slightly smug).

3) Choose a treat meal/night out a week.
Whether it’s the amazing canapes here, or the fabulous dinner to be served up by your friend there, or a boozy night out with friends, choose the one event where you’re going to let your hair down and fully enjoy what’s on offer.

4) Stick to your regular exercise regime.
As much as you are able to, ringfence your workouts to ensure you’re maintaining your fitness levels to keep your energy expenditure up. Just as you get fitter with more exercise, the effects reverse when you don’t go, so keep fit by keeping going!

5) Be smart with your choices.
I think I can conclude here that you don’t have to wear a halo throughout the festive season, after all that would be too boring. But know your limits and keep your wellbeing in check by making the right choices with meals and snacks so the food you eat doesn’t sap your energy. Don’t overdo it on the booze. Drink water. Keep your body moving and energised regularly. Spend time with the people you love and who care about you, or revel in the peace of spending time solo. Be positive and kind. Say ‘no’ when you need to. Lastly, and most importantly enjoy the festive season whatever shape it takes for you!

See you soon!

Sophiex

Chicken, avocado & fig salad with cinnamon rice

Chicken, avocado and fig salad with cinnamon rice

This is a firm family favourite with delicious and satisfying flavours which will thrill your tastebuds as well as keep you full and satisfied for a long time.

The cinnamon rice is adapted from a Tott family recipe handed down through the generations and influenced by Greek Cypriot roots – where cinnamon is a favourite spice. The recipe traditionally uses white basmati, but I have modified it and now use wholegrain to lower the GI and make it more sustaining.

Portion size for one. (Double quantities for two)
Fist-sized portion of cooked chicken (lean breast)
1/2 avocado
1 fig
Generous serving of raw spinach
A slice of lime
Crack of black pepper

Cinnamon rice to serve 4
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1 clove finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 mug wholegrain rice
2 mugs chicken stock

Method:

Cinnamon rice: Soften the onion and garlic in a pan with the coconut oil over a medium heat. Rinse the rice thoroughly. When the onion is translucent, stir in the cinnamon and rice until everything is coated evenly in the oil and spice. Add the rinsed rice and chicken stock (‘real’ – click here for my easy recipe, or from a cube) and stir. Bring the pan to the boil, then turn down to a simmer until the water has boiled away and the rice is cooked (approximately 20 minutes). Keep a check on it as you may need to add more water – wholegrain rice can be quite thirsty! )

To serve:
On a large bed of spinach add a fist-sized portion of the rice. Arrange the chicken, avocado and fig. Squeeze the lime over the salad, add the black pepper and enjoy!

 

Tasty chicken stock

An absolute kitchen essential in my book. Once you know how to make a great chicken stock, you have a delicious base for all your soups and sauces. When you want to save the pennies too, it makes your chicken stretch out to another meal. Once you’ve made it once you’ll never want to chuck a chicken carcass away again.

My kids love it too – with cubed leftover chicken, and some angel hair noodles crushed into it, it turns into a super-nutritious and filling soup!

You will need:

1 leftover chicken carcass – include all the bones from legs, wings, thighs, body, the works.
2 large, or 3 medium-sized organic carrots, chopped roughly
2 sticks celery, chopped into 1/2″ slices
1 medium sized onion, peeled and quartered
2 small or 1 large bay leaf
The juice from the chicken, saved from cooking, fat drained off
1.5 litres cold water (or enough to cover the carcass)
Salt & pepper

A large strainer

Take a medium sized pan (10″ish diameter). Place all ingredients in the pan.

Bring to the boil, and boil on a medium-high heat for 20 mins, before turning down to a low simmer – just enough to see bubbles on the surface of the stock for 2-3 hours. It’s ready when you taste it and you can’t stop tasting it (and its slightly thicker than water in consistency)!

Strain, cool, and store in the fridge. Eat within a couple of days (if it lasts that long!).

Butternut squash & feta salad

Butternut Squash & Feta Salad

Serves 4

If you need a healthy, easy, yummy lunch which you can wow your friends with, this one fits the bill. I was served this by my friend who’s a bit of a culinary whizz a couple of weeks ago. It’s delicious, nutritious, fat burning and will keep you full well into the afternoon.

1 butternut squash, deseeded and cut into 1″ squares
200g feta cheese
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsps Pumpkin seeds
2 tbsps Sunflower seeds
1 tbsp Flaxseeds
Generous handful of fresh thyme
1 packet rocket/babyspinach mix
4 warmed pitta breads, cut in half
1 tub houmous

Dressing:
Mix 2 tbsp hemp oil with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Method:
Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Put the coconut oil in a tray, and place in oven until oil has melted. Add the buttenut squash, stirring until all the pieces are coated. Roast for 25-30 minutes until lightly caramelised.  Towards the end of cooking, warm the pittas in the oven, or toast in the toaster if you prefer.
In a small frying pan over a medium heat, toast the seeds and then set aside.

Divide the rocket mix into bowls, add a sprinkle of thyme, 1/4 of the seeds, and dressing to each bowl, and toss gently.

To serve:
Crumble the feta over the salad mix, add the butternut squash and serve with a warmed pitta and houmous. Enjoy!

3 quick, easy, sustaining breakfasts

Morning folks, so this morning, I thought I’d share my top 3 quick, sustaining breakfasts with you.

1. Scrambled egg & avocado wrap.
Prep/cook time: 5 minutes.

When you need a quick, delicious breakfast, this recipe will certainly fit the bill and help you start the day the right way. The reason? It’s packed with protein, good fats, vitamins and nutrients which all contribute towards your body functioning well at a cellular level. And because it contains virtually no sugar (there will be a little in the wrap), your blood glucose levels will rise slowly, energy will be released slowly, and you will stay satisfied for longer.

You will need:
2 eggs, splash of milk, seasoning
A large handful of raw, baby spinach
1 large tomato, sliced
Handful of fresh herbs if you have them – (coriander works particularly well)
1/4 avocado
1 wholegrain wrap

Whisk, then scramble the 2 eggs, milk & seasoning in a pan with coconut oil. They should be glistening when you eat them, not hard and rubbery.

Pop your wrap on a plate, put the eggs, tomato, avocado, herbs (if you have them, they’re just there to add to the yum factor) and as much spinach as you can on the wrap, wrap it and eat it.

Enjoy it! And remember to eat it slowly and appreciate it.

2. Homemade granola.
Prep time: 10 minutes, cook time: 20. This granola is best pre-prepped and stored in an airtight box so you can grab and go. I usually make up 500g, but you could double up the quantities and make up a kg for it to last longer.

Why is this breakfast healthy?

Oats are a great source of dietary fibre, which aids digestion in your body. They will also provide energy from their carbohydrate content. The seeds provide a healthy dose of Omega 6 fatty acids, which are great for brain function. The nuts are a source of protein, and in combination with the oats provide your body with the essential proteins it needs for optimum function.

The berries provide anti-oxidant qualities which help in counteracting potential damage by something called free radicals. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

You will need: 

500g jumbo oats
35g sunflower seeds
35g pumpkin seeds
2 tbsps coconut oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsps vanilla extract

To serve
5 Pecan/almond/hazelnuts
1 tbsp toasted coconut
Generous handful berries
Almond milk / dairy milk (but the almond milk is VERY delicious!)

Method
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Line 2 flat baking trays with greaseproof paper. Melt the coconut oil until it’s liquid in a pan over a gentle heat. Take it off the heat and add the ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. Stir in the oats, sunflower & pumpkin seeds until the oats are covered. Spread the mixture evenly over the 2 trays, and bake for 20 mins, checking regularly. Turn after 10 mins so you get an evenly cooked result.

Serve
With your choice of pecan, almond, or hazelnut, a tbsp of toasted coconut, a generous helping of berries – blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries are all great choices and cold almond milk.

As a variation, this is just as delicious served with other fruits and natural yoghurt.

3. Healthy peanut butter on toast.

Okay, now’s the time to ditch the peanut butters you’re used to buying, and I’ll let you into a secret. They cost a FORTUNE in comparison to a healthy substitute. Search for Meridian natural peanut butter. It contains peanuts, and that’s it. And 1KG will set you back a fiver! £5. A bargain!

And no added sugars, palm oil or other nasties you sometimes find in more commercial brands.

To manage your expectations, it does taste a little different, but this is only because you’re used to higher sugar versions. I have switched, and even my 2 & 4 year olds now readily scoff this brand. The best bit is that it’s packed with health-giving protein!

You will need:
Rye bread (you can now buy this from most supermarkets – it’s yummy)
Healthy peanut butter
A tomato, sliced
Seasoning
Spinach (optional)

 

Toast 2 slices bread, spread peanut butter (note: no butter!), arrange sliced tomatoes in abundance. Crack of black pepper and salt over the top and serve on a bed of raw baby spinach. Enjoy!

You’ll note that I rattle on about raw spinach. It’s full of nutrients, including iron, so try adding it to any meal you can.

So there you have it, three delicious, simple, and sustaining breakfasts packed with nutrients to leave you feeling full of longer lasting energy, and which contribute to your body’s optimal health.

Bon apetit!

Sophiex

Salmon with ginger & thyme butternut squash, green beans & broccoli

As my husband will testify, I have become more and more interested in the food we eat, and how it can affect our health. A few months ago, I began to experiment with ‘eating clean’ – that is, to eliminate pretty much all processed foods from our diets, and prepare meals based on loads of health-giving, nutrient-rich organic greens and veg, lean meats, oily fish, the ‘right’ fats, and wholegrain foods – complex carbohydrates with a low GI.

In combination with a new exercise regime, I found that my weight dropped, my hair & skin began to glow more, and my energy levels skyrocketed. It was almost unbelievable to see the changes, so I’ve set myself a little mission to start compiling my experiments in the kitchen, as well as things exercise-wise I’m learning and sharing it online so that you can benefit from my experience. I’m not quite sure yet where this blog is going to take us, but I hope you’ll join me for some delicious experimentations in the kitchen and a small step towards living a healthier life. It’s worth it, I guarantee.

So today, I wanted to share a quick and simple recipe, which I usually enjoy for dinner but would also be a yummy lunch too. The warming ginger & comforting thyme complement the sticky, caramelised butternut squash beautifully, and complement the soft salmon flesh and crunchy al-dente veg perfectly.

For many reasons, in all my recipes, I will be recommending that you buy the best quality ingredients you can afford, ideally local, and organic. This will help to ensure they are as nutrient-dense as they could be. The better quality soil a food is grown in, the more nutrients it will contain, and the better it will be for your body. Think about buying from your local fishmonger, or greengrocers, or maybe even a local market – there are also some great bargains to be had by buying towards the end of the day.

I also recommend steaming the veg to maintain their nutrients.

Steamed salmon with ginger and thyme butternut squash, green beans and broccoli 

8oz butternut squash, cubed, 1cm
Generous handful of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 dessert spoon coconut oil (you can buy it in Holland and Barrett. Make sure you buy organic).
1 teaspoon Agave nectar (a natural, organic syrup from cactus – you can find it in Holland & Barrett)
Top and tailed green beans

Generous serving of broccoli

Method: Salmon: Take each salmon fillet and slice of lemon and wrap in it’s own large square of tin foil – secure it tightly so no air can escape and leave enough airspace space for the salmon to steam. Place in the oven and cook for 12-15 mins (I usually check at 12 mins to make sure it’s not overcooking). You’ll know it’s ready when it’s a paler pink than when raw, and yielding to the touch. Butternut squash: add the cubed butternut squash and thyme to a medium sized pan of cold water, bring to the boil, continue boiling for 2 minutes, then take out the cubes and set aside. Heat your coconut oil in a medium sized frying pan until hot, then add the thyme, butternut squash, agave nectar and ground ginger. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook until golden and beginning to caramelise (approximately 10 minutes). Don’t touch the contents of the pan too much as you want the cubes to remain intact. Steam your veg, then serve the meal. Enjoy, taking the time to savour the flavour!

5 easy ways to maximise your enjoyment of exercise

Hi everyone,

Thanks for visiting the Fitness Boutique today!

When life gets hectic, I know how hard it can be hard staying focussed on getting or staying fit. But you know how great you feel when you finish working out, so today I’d like to share 5 of my favourite tips to help you turn exercise into your friend rather than foe.

  1. Buddy Up. Exercising with a friend or relative is not only good fun – you are more likely to get up and out because you won’t want to let her down.
  2. Choose something you enjoy, and think of it as a treat. Whether I’m teaching or taking part, for me, going to classes offers an escape from the hullabaloo of family life and a chance for ‘me’ time. Dancing and music revives my soul and whatever mood I’m in, always makes me feel great. What about you?
  3. Find an instructor you like and trust. Whether she/he motivates you, helps you achieve your goals or is good fun and enjoys a laugh, like your instructor and you’re more likely to want to spend time with them week after week.
  4. Get into the habit. Exercise at the same time, same place, each week and you will eventually create a habit, which you won’t want to break! Booking your next session there and then will also motivate you even more.
  5. Ditch the guilt. So you missed a class because you finished work late, your boiler broke and you had to go food shopping. No point in stressing, just book into to the next session you can and you’ll feel fab!

Working out doesn’t have to be a chore! Don’t miss out! Click here  NOW to sign up for the forthcoming Fitness Boutique Weekly for more easy, fun and effective ways to stay glowing, fit and healthy.

Til next time.

Sophie x

Good things come…

A few weeks back I excitedly announced the launch of the Wednesday evening Swing Me Fit class. I’m sorry to announce that it has been delayed due to circumstances beyond my control.

So hang tight, I know you’re looking forward to there being more classes soon, and so am I.

In the meantime, subscribe to our weekly newsletter which will shortly be launching, and you will be the first to know all of my latest class news. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to stay up to date with ground-breaking research, news, and products in the fitness world, and gain some great hints and tips on looking and feeling great whilst having fun! Simply email us at thefitnessboutique@yahoo.co.uk and we’ll add you.

Sophiex