Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Why I love: Walking

I used to really dislike walking as a form of exercise. In fact, I never used to consider it 'exercise' at all, thinking it was 'just' a scaled down version of running, and something you did on hangover free weekends with friends and family (or something your parents would force you to do each Sunday until the day you left home!).

Now though, I'm a total convert. I'm not pretending I've taken up hiking holidays or anything like that, but I've started walking my commute. I know, groundbreaking. It's not a fresh mountain view hike or anything remotely half as beautiful as the picture above would suggest, but it's become a morning ritual (and evening, some days) for me now and I love it.

It takes the same time to walk as it does to get public transport (give or take 5 minutes), and by walking I've found I can reap a whole host of benefits.

Here's why I'm loving walking to work:

1 'Me time' 

I'm absolutely loving having 45 minutes in the morning to walk and wake up, mull over my thoughts, stresses and to-do lists.

I feel like I gain a lot of clarity on my walk, I have time to really think things through and it feels amazing.

I've been trying to walk 'handsfree' as I'd noticed I was glued to my phone and carrying it *all* the time, and every time I've done this I've been amazed at what it feels like to have two hands swinging by my side, rather than one wrapped around my phone, slave to my headphones wrapping themselves around it. It makes me realise how addicted I am to just holding my phone.

I also looveeee listening to podcasts on the way in. Educational, health, funny, smutty, murder / crime thrillers - you name it, I've probably subscribed. Current faves include:

- My Dad Wrote A Porno (the.best. I've never laughed out loud so uncontrollably in public before).
- The Inquiry (really good 20 min podcasts on news and current affair topics, it has four opinions on one subject)
- Don't Salt My Game (Laura Thomas is a Registered Nutritionist and is calling bullshit on the diet industry / fake wellness era we live in)

I'm planning on doing a podcast post, so will leave this here for now..!

It also means I have 45 mins to chat to my family & best friends who don't live near me. This is especially good in the evening when you've got a load of dirty goss to catch up on and couldn't possibly do this on the train with everyone listening. Bliss.

Headspace is a massive plus to walking in, too. In a world where we're bombarded with so much information (see addicted to phone point above), it's nice to have this time to myself.

When I get to work, I'm not annoyed at having been squished on a tram carriage with loads of other people or sat stuck in traffic, I've had 45 minutes to do my own thing, let my mind play out scenarios, plan the day ahead, workout my priorities and just get 'ready' for the day. I've found I come in to work alert, motivated and really refreshed - not groggy or half asleep.

2 Exercise / Fitness

I wear a Fitbit and immediately I noticed the impact walking to (and most days, from) work had on my step count and calorie burn. This really isn't about calories burnt or steps taken, but it's definitely had an impact. The walk is around 5km and I burn around 300/350kcals (obvs this will be totally different for everyone according to distance, body weight, heart rate etc etc etc). I'm also, for the majority of the walk, in the 'fat burning zone', which is different from my usual running / HIIT / strength /  circuits based workouts I do, so a great addition to add to my workouts for the week.

It's great because if I know I'm going to have a busy week and will struggle to maintain my usual workout plan I know I'm still getting 45 minutes (90 if I walk home) of activity in my day.

3 General health

There are a load of other health benefits to walking - including reducing the risk of chronic illnesses (like heart disease, asthma), improving physical health, helping mental health, improving joint and back pain. You can find them all listed on the NHS website here and Bupa here.

4 Getting outdoors

I spend the majority of my time inside. I work in an office. I go to the gym. I cook in the kitchen and chill in my living room most evenings. I go out for dinner (and sit inside) and bars and shops and go to events with friends and dates and most of the time, it's all inside.

On weekends I try and spend as much time outside as possible and during the week, when we're lucky enough to get 'ok' weather, I do really try and make a real effort to get out as much as I can, but living in the UK means this isn't always achievable.

So, walking to work in all weather is another way to make sure I spend some time outside (bear in mind I'm writing this in August and might be telling a different story in November ha).

Lucy Mountain aka @thefashionfitnessfoodie has said so many times on her Instagram that she walks anywhere that takes an hour or less, and that's something that's stuck with me for the past few months. It's very typical in London to walk 45 / 60 minutes as a standard way of getting around and not think about it, but in Manchester / Bristol / other places it's a lot less typical. So I'm trying my best to make it the norm!

I do also have some top tips on how to stick at it, too.

Firstly, don't like I did, try and walk to work in brand new, rigid, heel-skin ripping, blister inducing shoes. Stick to your good old trusty trainers. Yes, you might look like a bit of a knob in a dress and Nike free runs, but such is life.

Secondly, upgrade your dress-meets-trainer look and walk to work in gym kit. I've started doing it and get changed as soon as I'm at work. I found when walking in normal clothes I'd get in the office and the heat of the walk would finally catch up with me and I'd end up half-drenched making lift small talk (gross). Not.the.one.

Also, get a raincoat. Seriously. Pride, style and fashion sense must go out the window. One day I think I'll invest in a lush, sleek looking waterproof that will make me look like something out of the Lululemon brochure but for now I'm wearing a massive old Berghaus raincoat that was James's about fifteen years ago (school label in it and everything).

I do have a lush Sweaty Betty rucksack though which is amazing as it fits clothes, shoes, towel, lunch, breakfast, shower stuff, makeup, purse etc etc in it... It's the All Sport rucksack here.

I want to inspire you to walk a little bit more to see the benefits. I'm really really enjoying it, and think you will too. Other people that post a lot about walking and the benefits include my pal Spamella, and Twins in Trainers (these two girls did a really good post here about walking and its benefits).

Long live #LISS.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Butternut Squash Squares

Oh my gosh, this recipe was a complete accident. One of those total accidental foods that you don't expect to amount to anything but the way it turned out means this will be a weekly thing for me now.

I had a butternut squash to use up (does anyone else hate cutting them?! The skin is so tough..), and decided to roast it so I could chuck it in the oven and forget about it, and have it with something for tea that evening.

Now, I'm trying to go more plant based / veggie 80% of the time (more on this later, I'm sure), so I knew I wanted to try and spice this up a bit more to make it more of a 'main event' in a meal.

The flavours, the texture - this is a winner, and I think you'll love it.

You'll need:

  • 1 large butternut squash, de-skinned and chopped into cubes
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons of tahini (I used Meridian)
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • Olive oil to drizzle
  • Sea salt 

This makes about four portions, so alter if you want to make more.

Chop your butternut squash into cubes, removing all of the skin. It's a bit of a chore to chop, and be careful as it can be a bit slippy sometimes with a knife (or you could buy the pre-chopped stuff). I really hate the stringy bits (they literally freak me out so much), but don't let me stop you adding these if you want to.

Place on a baking tray, and drizzle with olive oil, mixing the cubes until they're covered. Then add your paprika - I love a bit of spice so went for three generous tablespoons but you can adapt to your preferences... also I used smoked paprika because I like the taste but normal paprika is fine.

Next, sprinkle sea salt over the cubes and mix everything so that all your cubes are covered. Then, drizzle 3 or 4 tablespoons of tahini over and mix again, ensuring all of the squares are coated.

Roast in the oven for 40/45 mins at 180 degrees until they're crisp, golden and fluffy inside.



Monday, 10 July 2017

Double 00 Pizza Chorlton

I never ever ever exaggerate. Ok. I do. But, oh my gosh why haven't I written a post about this before now? Considering I've been going two years? Considering that Double 00 pizza is the best pizza I've ever had?

See. No bold claim. Just pure, unadulterated truth.

I've been going to Double 00 since it first opened a couple of years ago; in fact, I went in its first week when things weren't quite ready and the place stunk of fibreglass, and it was still great.

I've probably been between 15 - 20 times, and I'm not bored (I last went on Sunday).

I've seen the restaurant go from having stacks of flour by the windows, to opening up the main front wall with bifold doors (always a winner) so that now, the terrace and the inside of the restaurant are basically one.

I don't just love the pizzas.

I love the fact it's BYOB.

I love the fact it's equally somewhere you can go on a date, for a birthday meal as a big group of friends, for somewhere to gossip and catch up with a best mate, and to take your parents.

I love the music they play. Feel good house (oh yes kids) - the playlist always makes me want to go on a night out (but my carb baby says otherwise).

I love the fact you can either choose one of their own pizzas, or make your own (I always make my own). Their starters are pretty good too.

I usually always get the make your own with chicken, jalapenos and nduja, or balsamic onions. And it's soo good.

Quite often if I'm in a group we'll get a couple of the rocket and parmesan side salads as they're lush.

For starters, the fig crostini is incredible, the olives are good, and the antipasti platter gets a thumbs up from me.

My favourite thing though has to be... no matter how rammed or busy they are, and despite not having booked sometimes, they'll always always do their best to fit you in, whether that means moving tables around (it happened to us where we've literally moved mid meal so they could accommodate some more people - it's just their 'vibe', and I'm totally fine with that), or being realistic about timings. It's busy and loud but the people are so friendly you feel like you know them.

You can find them on Twitter here, on Trip Advisor here. If there's more than two of you, definitely book. And thank me later ;)

Here's some more pics of pizzas...


Saturday, 1 July 2017

Amma's Canteen

Amma's Canteen - photo courtesy of Amma's Canteen
This is going to be a short and sweet one from me, but I have to tell you guys about this place.

Nestled in between Chorlton and Didsbury (no man's land), opposite the massssive Southern Cemetery graveyard (stay with me, people), is Amma's Canteen. You'll have probably driven past it a few times and not really noticed it, as it's on a row of small shops, easily miss-able with a blink of an eye.

I'd heard a few mumblings about the place on social, and so last Thursday, Hannah, James, Jak and I made the way to no man's land to see what the fuss was about.

First of all, it's BYOB which is great, and even better when you realise you've got a bottle of unopened red from that one weekend where you managed to abstain from drinking.

We went on a Thursday evening and there were about four other tables eating. It's not massive, so definitely book if there's more than four of you. The atmosphere was very chilled and friendly - our waitress was great.

This isn't Indian food as us Brits know it. It's South Indian street food serving small plates... essentially Indian tapas. You won't find any korma here, which is fine by me.

I'll get straight to it, as that's essentially what we did on Thursday - we ordered pretty much everything off the street cart menu bar 4 dishes (I think there are about 14) so we had a LOT of food - but it was so delicious we polished it all off.

They're great as they cater for meat eaters, pescetarians and veggies / vegans alike - there's so much choice. The emphasis really is on flavour rather than the 'meat source', which gets a thumbs up from me.

From memory, we ordered:

Chilli paneer: The paneer was absolutely incredible. Big, chunky and a really generous portion, it came with a gorgeous sauce and lots of veggies- almost like a mini curry. Would have eaten two portions if I didn't have the rest of the menu to devour! My favourite dish..

Masala Vadai (4x pieces of falafel with a red cabbage slaw). Very very flavoursome and not hideously deep fried like some falafel can be.

Spiced Sundal - slow cooked chickpeas with chilli, mango, coconut and lime; really refreshing and I loved the addition of coconut - this was a great side 'filler' dish, but if you're veggie definitely get the paneer and falafel to go with it!

Chicken 65 - apparently this is a famous bar snack in Chennai - deep fried spicy chicken, really, really good!

Tamarind wings - can you ever go wrong with sticky chicken wings?

Beef dukka: slow roast beef, pearl onion and coconut - this was gorgeous, pulled beef with crispy veg - no sauce, but I really liked it dry. Great portion size here too.

Pepper squid - I'm not a massive fan of squid, I have to really be in the mood for it, but I tried a little bit and was pleasantly surprised! Again, comes with loads of peppers and onion (a big win in my eyes!).

Sauteed prawns - king prawns with red chilli, crushed shallots and coconut. These were amazing and the prawns and veggies were coated in a gorgeous light sauce.

Well, you'd think after that we'd be full, but we decided to order "just three" main meals to finish us off.

We ordered two dosa's (Indian pancakes) - one beef and one potato and spinach. They're massive and come with a nice dipping sauce. I'd never get pancakes as a main usually, but these were great.

Jak also ordered an amazing chicken curry pot - spicy, pulled chicken pieces in a gorgeous spicy, thick sauce that was literally "me in a dish" - it came  with pancakes, not rice as a side.

One thing I'd say is that you really get the feeling that the food has been cooked with care, and passion - does that make sense or just sound odd? To explain a little better, the chef came out and chatted to us for a while and wanted to know where we'd heard about their place (I think he might have been the owner.. could be wrong), and explained why they'd chosen the seemingly random location. He said that they couldn't choose between Didsbury and Chorlton so chose somewhere slap bang in the middle to attract both tribes. Clever, and I bet they've saved a fair bit on rent too!

It was a good 'double date' venue but I also think it would be great as somewhere to come as a group where you can all order loads of bits and share.

It's a fifteen minute walk from Chortlon and probably a bit longer to West Didsbury / Nell Lane, but trust me, it's worth the short Uber ride.

They also feature on a Manchester Confidential article about restaurants locals don't want you to know about - you can read it here.

Their website is ammascanteen.com - check out their menu there.

We'll definitely be back - Indian tapas is amazing!

I'm hopefully going to do a few posts on my favourite restaurant gems, so keep an eye out for more!
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