Friday, 31 January 2014

Let them eat cake (strawberry gateaux to be precise)!

I don't make a lot of cakes for two reasons - one is that I try to follow a low-fat diet (and when you bake you get to see just how much butter you are using thereby ruining any chance of enjoyment) - and the other is that neither my girls or I like cream, butter cream or icing. This pretty much rules out enjoying the whole 'pretty cupcake' culture - although we do all like a chintzy tablecloth, a posh tea set and a layered cake stand! Sometimes the children even fight over the 'honour' of laying such a table.

Although I'm quite down with healthy muffin recipes, using oil, mashed bananas or yoghurt instead of a solid fat, I haven't really experimented with virtuously made-over cakes. Until now that is! With the release of three new flavours of 'Fruyo' (a fat-free Greek yoghurt from Total), I got my hands on a low-fat cake recipe that appealed to me on all levels - not least the inclusion of strawberries and a light alternative to the fatty fillings traditional associated with sponge cakes.

Low fat and full of protein

Just like its mummy, Total, the Fruyo pots have a high-protein content but don't use preservatives, colourings or artificial sweeteners, which ticks all my boxes! The new flavours are blueberry, strawberry and zesty lemon (there's already peach, vanilla, cherry and pineapple). Find them in Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Nisa, Wholefoods, Booths and Ocado (£1.09 per 170g pot). You could easily use any of the flavours to ring the changes with this recipe - and switch the strawberries for peach slices or blueberries to match as you fancy.

My cake ingredients - using Total 0% Greek yoghurt instead of butter


The original recipe used a smaller (7-inch), round cake tin, which makes an extra layer of yummy filling possible, but I wanted to use my heart-shaped tin for a bit of pre-Valentine romance.

If you go for three layers of yumminess, it should look like this...

The recipe: Strawberry Gateaux

Serves: 8-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes, plus cooling
This is best made a day ahead and stored in the fridge to cut easily. 
Ingredients
For the cake
150g 0% Total Greek yoghurt
3 medium eggs
185g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract


For the filling and topping:
100g 0% Total Greek Yoghurt
2 x Strawberry Fruyo
1 tbsp icing sugar
350g strawberries, thinly sliced
Method
  1. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F fan. Fully line your loose bottomed cake tin with non-stick baking paper. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the cake ingredients until smooth. Pour into the cake tin and smooth the surface. 
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes until pale golden and just springy to the touch. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before removing and leaving to cool completely. 
  4. Mix the Greek yoghurt with the icing sugar and set aside.  
  5. Using a sharp knife cut the cake horizontally into two (or three if you are going with that option). Place the bottom half on a serving plate and top with half the sliced strawberries. Spoon over the Fruyo Strawberry and spread. (If you are using an extra layer, save some berries and Fruyo for the middle too). Add the top cake layer, and spread with the Greek yoghurt.
  6. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Top with reserved strawberries and serve. 



Feeling pretty pleased with myself - the perfect partner to a glass of bubbly methinks...

Well the proof is in the pudding, and I'm pleased to say the cake was delicious! I can see it working for a tea party, with friends or even with the cake mixture used as a base for cup cakes (baking time adjusted accordingly). The topping and filling are also versatile - I can certainly use Greek yoghurt and icing sugar as an alternative to buttercream on all sorts of cakes. It's given me a real 'taste' for developing some low fat desserts. 

How about you? Does this cake tempt you to cook low-fat - and replace butter /cream with Greek yoghurt? Let me know in the comment box below - and l'd be interested in any other tips for making puddings a little bit healthier...a girl's gotta eat!!

Thanks for reading
Vanessa.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Top 10 running needs

I think I've probably bored the pants off everyone now with my constant references to my upcoming half marathon (too bad Hugh Jackman doesn't read my blog eh?). But this week my race pack arrived - including my number and the little microchip I have to wear to make sure I don't catch a bus part of the way round. And suddenly it all seems VERY REAL!

While my friends and family have all been very supportive of me as I have been training (thank you!) - I think it is me that is the most shocked that I have signed up and worked my way up through the miles on my run schedule. But as well as all the lovely people in my life, I probably wouldn't be running without the rather fabulous things I've listed below:

1. ASICS gel-kayano 19 trainers from Sweatshop


 
I'm a little bit in love with my ASICS. At first I was a bit put off by the colour, I felt a bit, um, overly visible? But now that I'm running on the road in the winter (as well as bouncing up and down at the gym) I can see that is a good thing! They are comfy and have been suitable for gym workouts and my runs.

2. iPhone

Okay, I know I am barely seen without it anyway, but who knew it would also prove to be invaluable during my training. Why? Please see below...

3. The Nike+ running app

I'm not known for my spatial awareness, and this little beauty allows me to pre-set distances, monitor my pace and measure calories burned. There's also a little voice that tells me how far I've run, when I'm at the half way point and when I'm nearly at my goal. Sometimes, somebody famous congratulates me. Sometimes I don't even know who the famous person is. There's lots more functionality on it too - but I'm happy with the basics (and I really don't want to be posting to Facebook each time I run!). I also like the fact if I was brutally murdered the police might be able to locate my body from mapping my run/GPS signal. I think I probably watch too much Silent Witness...




4. Spotify

This is the other app I have loaded onto my phone. I've created a running playlist that is available off-line so I can have music wherever I go. It has everything from Amy Winehouse to The Zutons (not the same song obviously) - and all sorts of music too (happy, shouty, cheesy). I just have to remember not to sing along to CeeLo Green too loudly.

5. Padded socks from Runners' Retreat

Normally I buy  a bundle of cheap sports socks from a cheap sports shop (you're not going to make me admit I go there are you?). But I did treat myself to one pair of proper padded socks from Thorlos, and they are worth it. It's like cosseting my tootsies in their very own duvet as I pound the pavement.

6. Running tops from Sweaty Betty

First up, I should admit that I love this brand. I have stacks of its stuff; tops, bottoms, jackets, vests, outfits to warm up, work out and cool down in, in fact, the whole kit and caboodle. I like them because they are comfy, dry fast, come in great colours, look good and last. The run tops I have also offer an 'audio port guide' (somewhere to stick the cord from your earphones!!).

7. Neotechs arm band via Amazon

And this my friends is how I carry my iPhone as I run. It's not perfect, I had to sew a pleat in it to make it small enough for me, and on  my longer runs it has started to rub if it is directly on skin (as opposed to over a long sleeve top). However, it is miles better than holding my phone (gives me shoulder ache) or shoving it in my run tights or down my bra (keeps switching itself on and off - possibly out of embarrassment). I'm thinking of upgrading to this or this (both available from Sweatshop) - maybe neoprene doesn't chafe???

8. Ronhill running tights from Henley Sports

 
Stretchy, light and reflective, with proper zips at the ankle like real runners wear! I've never owned running tights before but given I sometimes run early in the morning I really needed something that was full length but not flappy.

9. Shock Absorber bra

Look away boys, I'm talking about boobies. Apparently all boobs big and small bounce during exercise - some can even move up to 14cms!!! So, if you're working out you need an effective sports bra for comfort and to protect the skin and ligaments that support breast tissue (alternatively start saving for surgery). The Shock Absorber range has always worked for me (the one below is the 'Ultimate Run Bra' £38).
 
 

10. A race right on my doorstep!

The Mizuno Reading Half Marathon has been running since the 1980s and starts and finishes at the Madejski Stadium. It's a fast and flat route (well, we'll see about that!) and has a reputation for welcoming both professionals and amateurs. One of the highlights is finishing in front of roaring crowds (15,000 people strong), which sounds downright scary. Everyone I know that runs, loves the Reading Half for its atmosphere and route through the town centre. I guess I can let you know...



So it's over to you! Is there something that's essential to you missing from my roundup? Or are you good to go? Let me know what helps you workout in the comment box below.

Thanks for reading
Vanessa.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Just Jhoom!

Finding some ‘me’ time when you are a mummy is difficult but, as I think I’ve learnt to my cost, very necessary. And since being a parent is also physically exhausting and emotionally wearing, one of the best uses of any spare time you can eke out for yourself is an activity that will increase your energy levels and combat stress. You may know it as exercise…
 
Lovely ladies working up a sweat in style
 
It does seem odd that working up a sweat will actually rejuvenate you far more effectively than slumping on a sofa with a chocolate bar or a glass of wine, but it’s the sad and sorry truth! You don’t have to go crazy and start signing up for half-marathons or anything (hang on a minute…) but you do need to find something that will get you motivated, get you moving and make you smile. And it needs to fit around your kids too of course! 
 
Smiling is essential
 
So, in my continuing quest to step outside my comfort zone (that’s where the magic happens apparently, although I’m not too keen on the idea of Paul Daniels popping up beside me) I went along to a local Just Jhoom! class. [Tuesdays 9.30 at Loddon Hall for local readers - call Steph on 01491 578277 for more info].

The class is an aerobic workout that draws on Bollywood style dances and music. It’s fun, catchy and can be adapted to suit all levels of fitness (making it an ideal first step on the road to mummy tummy removal). The choreography is relatively simple – if you’ve done aerobic classes before you’ll be familiar with the footwork – and adding in the authentic-looking Indian arms is surprisingly easy. You’ll start with a warm up, learn about 8 to 9 faster routines, and then have a proper stretch and cool down. As you get more experienced you can add more oomph and get properly sweaty!

Learn some new moves

Sound good? Well, why not find a class near you? You don’t need much apart from comfy clothes and a pair of trainers to go along and see if this workout works for you. My taster class was free of charge too, so I had nothing to lose except my Bollywood cherry.

C’mon now, off the sofa and out of that comfort zone…

Let me know what you think of this article in the comment box below. Do you have any other great workout classes to recommend?

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Take a picture of you and your child today!

 
This morning I read a Huffington Post article that finally got me to stop procrastinating and start this new blog (it’s been in the ‘planning’ stages for a couple of months now…). The story, and the responses that the article received, really resonate with me, as I’m sure they will with many a mum.

The story follows a knackered mum as she attends a family get together where there is a photo booth for guests. Her son is keen to take some pictures with mummy. Mummy is less keen, given that she’s spent her time getting her charges ready for the event rather than herself and has a sleeping five-month-old strapped to her chest. She’s worried she looks old, fat, and basically far from her best. Pictures of her cute kiddies are more enjoyable to look at, so she generally avoids the piercing eye of the camera. Sound familiar?

But something makes this mummy realise that by avoiding photographic records of her and her children, she is doing them all a disservice. Children don’t judge their parents on appearance; they don’t remember ill-fitting tops from nursing days, baby weight on your tummy and baby food in your hair. They remember the fun you had together, the places you went, the things you did, the way you made them feel. And when you’re long gone they will want to look at photos of your shared past and see you there.

Xmas 2010: Not my best angle but shows I was actually there at least!!!!

As if this wasn’t enough to make you step out from behind the lens, the follow-up article collating the responses to the original piece was simply humbling. Many people identified with the mother in question, and others had stories of how photos had become even more important as parents and even children had been lost to illness and accidents. Others lamented the lack of pictures of their own mothers and wanted to spare their children that experience.

The article showed how memories we have of our family are precious and a photo of both every day and special events allows us to relive those half remembered moments. Such images tell the story of their childhood AND your motherhood – and yet many of us are voluntarily writing ourselves out of that tale because we are not quite picture perfect. 
 
April 2011: Blurgh! But the kids are enjoying themselves...

But my new blog isn’t supposed to be about being sad! A Happy Healthy Mummy is in fact quite the opposite!! It’s about allowing yourself time to recover yourself from the train wreck that child bearing and rearing can sometimes be! I want mummies not just to be happy in front of the camera because they realise their appearance isn’t the be all and end all of life – but also because they feel confident about the way they look too.

My new blog will centre on mummy wellness – bringing mummies out of the baby fog by way of healthy eating, fitness, relaxation, products and treats. I hope you’ll join me as I try out new experiences (not least the half-marathon I’ve signed up for – eek!) and add ‘taking care of myself’ to the long list of mummy duties I know we all have. (Tip: it's more important than getting the next load of washing on).
 
August 2013: I've come out the other side alive!!!

Let me know if you have a topic you’d like to read about in the comment box below – and thank you for reading!

 Vanessa.