Friday, 31 July 2015

The major downside to blogging about food is that I actually make all of the food I blog about - obviously. Sometimes I'll make three recipes to blog about in one day...and then eat them all. It's all well and good when it's a salad or a healthy dinner recipe but it gets a bit problematic when the cakes start piling up!

I'm a total gym-ophobe and I'm terrible at running; I walk about an hour a day while commuting and it definitely helps me maintain my weight when I'm eating well, but sometimes you just need an extra helping hand. I try to workout at home about 3 - 4 times a week so I thought I'd share a few of my favourite at-home workouts.

I think starting with a DVD is always the best way to get back into exercising at home. Find the right one and it almost acts like a personal trainer, teaching you how to do the moves, how to breathe properly, how to stretch, etc. 30 Day Shred is the DVD that really got me into working out at home. I was overweight and unhappy with how I looked and this really kick-started everything. It's hard: the first time I put it on I could barely get through the first round (and I had no idea what a burpee was) but you really see results and I'm a huge fan of all the other Jillian Michaels DVDs too. The workouts are based on High Intensity Interval Training, using short bursts of exercises that work a variety of muscles and bump up your heart rate, in turn boosting metabolism, burning fat and toning your body. The idea is that you do the workout 6 days a week, but they're only 25 minutes each so it's an attainable goal.

Bikini Body Workout: Kayla Itsines' 12-week plan has gone global thanks to her instagram which shows insane body transformations. The workouts are fairly easy to follow once you know the basics and they're tough - you could definitely get similar workouts online for free, but having them all laid out on paper makes them instantly accessible.
Project Me: Get The Gloss' 12-week programme used to be called Project Bikini and I think I prefer it to the Kayla Itsines one. The download that you get is beautifully designed, visually really exciting to read and refer back to and it includes some really tasty looking recipes, which makes it more worth the money for me. The workouts are circuit-based; they look easy on paper but they are pretty challenging!

Once you have all the moves down and you know what you like and what works for you, it's really easy to mix and match to create your own DIY workouts. One of the things I like doing is just adding a pair of small hand weights to a cardio DVD workout like this one. I also like doing a pick'n'mix of short YouTube videos - the Blogilates ones are really great. Sometimes, I just keep things really simple, put on some music, set an interval timer and just do whatever moves come into my head!

These short workouts are perfect, self-contained minis with a quick warm up and cool down included - that's why I didn't include the Blogilates in here as I wouldn't launch straight into 5 minutes of abs without doing a few jumping jacks or stretches first.
10 Minute Yoga: this video is nothing fancy or 'trendy', but I found it randomly on YouTube a few months ago and it's easy, relaxing and I can do all the moves ;)
5 Minute Arms for Abs: Karen Lord is a goddess. She recommends doing this (killer) mini workout every day and I'd love to see what kind of results it would give if I stuck to it.
ModelFit workout: while this workout definitely gets your heart rate up, it's pretty chilled and good if you don't want to break a sweat before dinner.

Of course, sometimes you just need to get outside and blow off some steam and for that, I'm forever grateful for Nike's FREE Nike Training Club sessions around London and the UK. What are your favourite workouts? Leave a comment or a link so I can check them out :)

INTERIORS INSPO: kilim cushions

Wednesday, 29 July 2015
The one thing I regret about my trip to Marrakech is that I didn't take a big suitcase to stock up on rich tapestry rugs and piles of kilim cushions. The popularity for these colourful woven pillows has really grown and I feel like I'm constantly being taunted by them on design blogs, instagram and home shops that sell them for x5387472 the price. I'm not sure they'd go with my current interiors anyway - except for the all-white styled image below - but if I had an outdoor space it would be strewn with pillows and blankets. I guess I'll just have to go back!

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Monday, 27 July 2015
Grilled salad might sound really odd, but hear me out on this one because it's amazing! I love making a healthy version of Caesar salad with a dressing made from yoghurt, lemon juice and parmesan, but grilling the lettuce first really takes things up a notch.

For this salad you want quite a robust lettuce, like little gem or romaine - no iceberg here! - which will hold its shape on the griddle. I like using little gem because it gets a lovely sweet and charred flavour.

To make this recipe, you really do need a griddle pan to get those lovely darkened lines, but you can get a similar flavour if you put the lettuce under the grill for a few minutes either side. Likewise, you can stick them on the barbecue, which makes for a really quick and easy supper! Just brush both sides lightly with olive oil and you're good to go - on a hot griddle pan, each lettuce wedge should only need a few minutes on either side.

For the dressing (per person)
2tbsp Greek (or natural) yoghurt
1tbsp (plus an extra tbsp for sprinkling) parmesan cheese
Squeeze of lemon juice
Plenty of salt and pepper (always Maldon!)

I like serving the wedges whole - it makes a nice impact on the plate and it makes it obvious to the people who are eating it that the lettuce is grilled, rather than just a bit hot!


Friday, 24 July 2015

Some people are the type who are 'go go go' all the time, who love a jam-packed social calendar and don't want to sit at home when they could be up and out with their friends. Sometimes I wish I was like that, but the truth is I just can't. Lately I've recognised that as much as it makes me happy to schedule a weekend to do nothing, I also need that time to recoup and relax. 

What do you like doing when you plan to do nothing?

**brb, gonna go watch Eat, Pray, Love for the x28494773 time and eat asparagus in my underwear


Wednesday, 22 July 2015
Do you plan your meals? I'm equal parts always thinking about my next meal and a total control freak so meal planning is something I've always tried to stick to and I've noticed how much more money and time I spend on weeknight meals when I haven't. It does require a bit of forward planning but it saves on both wasted food and money so I think it's really worth giving a go. I've put together a few of my meal planning tips that I hope will be helpful!

One of the most cost-effective and easy ways to plan meals is to think of a few go-to recipes that you eat in some kind of variation week in, week out. Having things you like to eat (and cook) to hand makes it easier to plan a few meals for the following week. You could keep a running list on your phone or stick one to the front of the fridge that you can add to. I like to write down things I think of during the week that I'd like to eat for the following week's food shop, which stops you just grabbing random ingredients that don't go together.

Once you've thought of a few recipes you like to cook, try and think of other meals you can make with similar ingredients. Using the same key ingredients that you would use to make one meal last for two is a great way to save money and time. Here are a couple of ideas:

- Transform leftover spaghetti bolognese into chilli con carne with a few spices and a can of kidney beans
- Roast chicken on a Sunday becomes the base for chicken pie filling the next day
- A packet of mince can make beef burgers on night one and meatballs on night two

Read my post on using up leftovers for more ideas!

By picking two or three meals and then following the above advice, you should have nearly enough meals to fill a full week. Don't forget to check your diary for any plans you've made so you don't end up buying food that you won't get around to eating. Write out all the ingredients for your meals and then add anything else you might need - milk, bread, cereal, eggs, etc. I think one of the things that puts people off shopping for the week is that last minute plans might crop up or you might end up working late and getting a takeaway instead, but you can always freeze meat or leftovers to use for another day.

One of the biggest things that has impacted the cost of our weekly shop is doing it online. You make a list, stick to it and hopefully aren't tempted by deals that aren't actually cost effective or extra ingredients and special treats (the treat aisle always gets me). There are plenty of supermarkets that offer cheap delivery slots and even if you have to pay £5, I bet you will still end up spending less. The other great thing about online food shopping is that you can see the total cost of your basket and if it's more than you thought it would be, you can go through the items and take out any that aren't essential. Since we've started getting our food delivered, we spend about £35 - £40 a week between us (including delivery) for a full week of meals with plenty of fresh vegetables and meat.

If you like the idea of planning meals but don't want to be restricted by a schedule, do a big order of staples - grains, pasta, tinned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and offers on meat. You can freeze the meat - or batch cook a few meals to freeze - and everything else will keep in the cupboards for ages. The Deliciously Ella cookbook is particularly good for rustling up meals from the cupboards as most of her recipes use store cupboard staples and don't require meat, dairy or most other items with a use-by date.

I know some of these tips might seem a bit obvious, but once you start meal planning, it really makes a big difference. Not only does it help cut down on food waste and save you money, but it saves so much time as well. Instead of deciding what you want to eat, then going to the supermarket after work (when you're hungry and will inevitably buy more than you need) and then coming home and finally starting to cook, you can get dinner on as soon as you get in the door. Having the whole process streamlined means I can often get home, cook and sit down to eat within thirty to forty minutes, which means more time for enjoying the rest of the evening.


Monday, 20 July 2015
I think I could eat Thai food every day of the week and I probably make some version of this recipe at least a few times a month. Those sweet, salty, tangy flavours just have me hooked it and somehow the more Thai food I eat, the more I want to eat! Talk about a vicious (delicious) circle.

This quick and easy curry is perfect for weeknights; I use a store bought paste and bolster the flavours with plenty of fresh herbs and some ginger and garlic to bring it to life a little bit.

Serves 2
300g mushrooms (I like chestnut)
200g green beans
1tbsp Thai curry paste (I like this one)
Thumb-sized piece of ginger
2 cloves of garlic
Large bunch of coriander
1 tin coconut milk
1 medium butternut squash
Vermicelli rice noodles
2 eggs (optional)

Heat the oven to 190C, peel and cube the butternut squash and roast with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and chilli flakes, if you have them. Leave the squash for about half an hour - tidy the flat, make tomorrow's to-do list, do a workout, etc.

After half an hour, slice the garlic, peel and grate the ginger and finely slice the coriander stems. Fry in a large wok with the curry paste and add a few spoonfuls of the coconut milk to simmer. Slice the mushrooms and beans and add to the wok. Stir fry for a few minutes until slightly softened. Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and simmer on a low heat for 10 - 20 minutes or until thickened to your taste.

Meanwhile, boil the kettle and soften the rice noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Take the squash out of the oven and toss through the noodles.

If you're using eggs, heat some butter in a non-stick pan and fry the eggs with a sprinkling of turmeric and a pinch of salt and pepper. Squeeze the limes into the curry, serve over the noodles and squash and serve with the egg and a generous handful of coriander leaves and another squeeze of lime.

Apart from the time spent waiting for the squash to cook, this recipe is quick and easy and the leftovers are delicious for lunch the next day.


Friday, 17 July 2015
I had so much fun recreating the strawberry and mint Cointreau Fizz back in April, so when Cointreau asked if I'd like to try a fresh summer update on their signature serve I jumped at the chance. I thought they were just going to send me a bottle of Cointreau to play around with, but a huge box arrived at my door, filled to the brim with everything I needed to make a summer-ready mango and coconut version.

I decided to make this tasty mango and coconut cocktail two ways - as a regular cocktail and as a frozen slushee.

To make one litre
150ml Cointreau
150ml fresh lime juice
100ml mango puree (I used funkin')
50ml coconut syrup (I used Monin)
100ml champagne*
450ml sparkling water

You can substitute the champagne for prossecco or cava or even another 100ml of sparkling water. I tried both and it doesn't make too much of a difference.

In a jug, mix together the Cointreau, lime juice (freshly squeezed - Darren took over because apparently I was doing it wrong...), mango puree and sparkling water. You can add the champagne at this stage too, but I like topping the glasses up with it at the end as the fizz has a bit more impact if you're serving it straight away.

For an extra fancy cocktail, rub a wedge of lime around the rim of the glass and then dip in salt or desiccated coconut.

Fill the glass with ice, pour over the champagne - if you haven't already added it - and serve immediately.

This version is really nice to have with dinner and Darren and I had a lot of fun making them together. We've been trying to save money lately, so to make something like this at home that I would be happy to pay for at a bar makes staying in that little bit sweeter.

The slushee version is really fun to serve at a party. I had a couple of friends over on a sunny afternoon, we put some reggae tunes on in the background and had a good old catch-up with a big (re-fillable!) jug and plenty of snacks.

To make the slushee, half fill a blender with crushed ice, pour in all the ingredients and blend on high speed for 30 seconds. If you don't have a blender, but you still want a nice thick cocktail, blend the cocktail ingredients with a fresh mango for a thicker, smoothie texture, and then top with crushed ice.

I've been loving experimenting with drinks on the blog lately - cucumber + elderflower coolers, peach sangria, coco mary's (virgin mary's with coconut water!) - and thought it would be fun to make a hashtag. Follow me as @catherinesprunt on twitter and instagram and if you make one of my drinks, tag me and include the hashtag #spruntingdrinks so I can see what you're up to :)


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Lamingtons are an Antipodean treat - I've always thought they were from Australia but the internet's full of claims by New Zealanders too - that combine three of the most delicious things: fluffy sponge, rich chocolate icing and coconut. I've called these 'sort-of' lamingtons because they are really not lamingtons at all, but they were inspired by a particularly tasty one I had at the village fair last year.

I loosely followed this recipe for the sponge, but halved all the quantities.

For 24 mini sort-of lamingtons and 4 classic lamingtons
2 eggs
100g plain flour
100g caster sugar
55g butter, melted then cooled
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

I made a classic buttercream icing with icing sugar and butter, then added melted dark chocolate and a splash of milk to get a glossy, super-chocolatey finish.

I won't lie, these were a bit fiddly! I used confectioners' cases to get such tiny-sized cakes - which only need about a teaspoon of cake mixture, so a little goes a long way. They only need 10 minutes in the oven so watch them like a hawk when the tops have just started to colour, as they do dry out quite quickly.

I let the cakes cool completely and then to ice them I just dipped them top-down into the icing and sort of swirled them to ensure they were coated. For the cherries, I painstakingly removed the pit by making a small incision in the base, then dipped in the chocolate and then the desiccated coconut. Frozen cherries come pitted, so if you don't mind not having the cute stems sticking out, they would be a good alternative.

p.s. I made classic lamingtons too and they were delicious ;)


Monday, 13 July 2015

I have a confession to make: I'm addicted to cards. Greetings cards, post cards, thank you cards, cards for no particular occasion but they have an animal on the front so I have to buy them. Yeah, I can't help myself. I stockpile cards, scraps of ribbons, gift tags and cute notepads, but the upside is I have a card for every occasion tucked away inside my collection, making last-minute scrambles few and far between*.

Clockwise from the sausage dog: Dachshund card by Rifle Paper Co; vintage-style Valentine by Hello! Lucky; A little thanks notecards by Paperchase;  You're Simply Lovely by Postco; Yay! card by Prickle Press via Calder & ByrneFox by Bengt & Lotta and blank ombre note cards via Paperchase; Random notes of appreciation by Bread & Jam.

I browse cards whenever I find a little shop, but Paperchase is also great as it stocks plenty of independent suppliers. I often buy two of the same because I've been known to get quite attached to certain cards - the most special ones usually get framed.

*here I have to apologise to my friend Jo, because apparently the only occasion my collection doesn't quite reach to is birthdays and she got a last-minute birthday card that I printed and doodled for her at work. Perfect excuse to buy some birthday cards :)


Friday, 10 July 2015

Hooray for the weekend! This recipe is perfect for hot summer days; it's non-alcoholic and perfect for barbecues and picnics, but if you did feel inclined to get a little boozy, a shot of gin would go down nicely too.

I called it a cooler, which I'm not sure is correct, but I think it sounds good. Plus it has plenty of ice and is super refreshing, so I'm gonna go with that!

Elderflower is a popular summer drink in the UK. Usually we drink it as a cordial - Belvoir is my favourite - which is a sweet, concentrated syrup that you mix with water. How much you dilute it depends on how sweet it will be, but Belvoir recommends 1 part cordial to 10 parts water.

For this recipe, finely slice a cucumber with a vegetable peeler and place in a jug with the cordial. Top with soda water and serve over plenty of ice.

I had some frozen berries hanging around in the freezer so I thought I would add them - it's been so hot that ice has been melting SO quickly - and I not only do they look super pretty but they don't dilute the cordial when the melt like ice does.