Try This: Ultimate Shakshuka

Mornings are getting darker, evenings colder and for some, freshers week is around the corner. Summer may have only just left us, but as I do live in England, winter is very much making its way in, and I have already lit the fire twice this week. Dreary and wet days mean that a nice cold sandwich will no longer cut the mustard and some warm comfort food is on the menu.

I made this for lunch a couple of days ago and posted it on my Instagram stories and to my surprise, I had loads of people message me asking what it was, and for the recipe. (Side Note: When I say loads I mean 7. But that was enough for me to feel like I was Nigella Lawson and that I might as well make a blog post out of it).

 

Shakshuka is my new love affair. There are plenty of recipes online so you can adapt how you like as I sort of made this one up on the spot. The basis of it is a rich spicy tomato base with some runny baked eggs in the middle, this warming dish is perfect for brunch, lunch and dinner, and works as my personal favourite hangover cure. So if you are in need of a little comfort food, hanging from freshers week or want to mix up your mid-week meals, give this one a try.

Ultimate Shakshuka: 
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1/2 can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 can of chickpeas (drained)
1/2 pepper (chopped)
1/2 chilli (chopped)
Large handful of spinach
2 eggs
1tsp paprika
1tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Bread (toasted)

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill to around 170. Place the chopped tomatoes, pepper and chilli into a saucepan and place over a medium heat to start heating through and reducing the tomatoes.
  2. Add all of the seasoning and chickpeas and place a lid on the saucepan and let it thicken up a little.
  3. Once thickened, add the spinach and stir until it had wilted and combined.
  4. Then transfer the contents of the saucepan into a bowl of choice.
  5. Make two small wells in the mixture with a spoon and crack the eggs into these wells.
  6. Place the bowl under the grill and leave until the eggs are cooked through.
  7. Garnish, and serve with some toasted bread to dip into the egg yolks as mop up the sauce.

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Super easy, and super quick, it probably takes me max 15 minutes to make. And you can play around with your ingredients; sometimes I use a tin of 5 bean mix instead of chickpeas, or you can go one better and get the 5 bean in a tomato sauce and then you have no need for the chopped tomatoes. Frying off some onion and garlic and adding to the sauce also gives some nice flavour, or my personal favourite, crumble some feta on the top after you have cooked the eggs!

 

 

5 Eco-Conscious Brands To Watch

Making more ethical and eco-conscious choices has been something I have been working on and becoming more aware of over the last two years. Simple things such as making more ethical food choices, being more conscious of the amount of food waste and general waste I produce, and working to reduce my plastic usage.

It seems that the world has also started to take note, more and more big name brands and small independent companies are priding themselves on producing ethical products or managing their waste more effectively.

This post is a shout out to a few brands and companies doing their bit to help the planet, whilst also producing some amazing products!

Toast (Beer) 

Beer lovers rejoice! You can now drink to your hearts content whilst also supporting the reduction of food waste. With the realisation that 44% of bread is wasted, Toast made it their mission to produce an ale using unsold loaves from bakeries and unused crusts from sandwich makers. In every bottle there is a slice of surplus bread – and better still, ALL of their profits are given to the charity Feedback to help tackle food waste.

So far they have saved over 6000 kilograms of bread, and are a fast growing and pioneering brand of conscious living. Their hierarchy in dealing with the surplus bread is Reduce, Redistribute, Brew, meaning that even before they use the bread to make their beer, they try to see if what they have collected is suitable to give to food redistribution charities first.

http://www.toastale.com/

Bees Wax Wraps 

Having only just discovered this company, I am now SO excited to share what Carly and Fran do. Everyone has at least one roll of cling-film or tin-foil in their home, constantly wrapping sandwiches, trying to preserve last nights leftovers can produce a lot of unnecessary plastic use. Enter handmade brand, Bees Wax Wraps, 100% natural made from cotton, bees wax, pine resin and jojoba oil, these wraps act in the same way as regular cling-film. Place over a bowl or wrap round a sandwich and the heat from your hands helps mould the wrap and makes it seal.

But wait for the best part, they are completely reusable AND biodegradable. Once you have used a wrap, you can give it a wash in some cold water and soap and its good to go again, and after a month stick them in the oven to re pasteurise and its like they’re brand new! I am definitely looking at investing in a few, and with such beautiful and funky colours, lunch will never be boring again!

https://www.beeswaxwraps.co.uk/

Pela

If you own a phone and admit to being as clumsy as me (or just don’t want to take the risk with your £400 phone) you will inevitably own a case, and like most of the population, it will probably be plastic. Traditional cases are made with a lot of plastic which contain toxins and are chucked away once we get bored of the design, meaning they sit in the ground or ocean for potentially thousands of years.

Pela have created a set of phone cases which not only protect your precious phone, but is also 100% compostable, BPA free and non-toxic, so you can save the world even when you’re taking a selfie.

https://pelacase.com/

Antibad

A friend I used to go to college with has been interning for this brand for a while and if you are a fashion lover, this is the place for you. Antibad are an online store and magazine which brings together sustainable clothing and accessories to challenge fast paced fashion and promote that sustainability can also be stylish.

From vegan bags to bamboo bras there is something for everyone. The website launches on October 1st so keep an eye on their social media and sign-up to their newsletter for offers and information.

http://antibadstore.com/

Chilly’s

The pinnacle of plastic use and waste comes in the form of plastic bottles. America throw away over 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. It is a huge waste of plastic, super damaging to the environment, not to mention it actually costs us lots of money. Chilly’s is a water bottle brand which aims to reduce single-use plastic bottles with their stainless steel ones.

The bottle is expertly designed to keep your drinks cool for up to 24 hours and hot for 12. With so many beautiful and stylish designs, you will want to be seen with this bottle, let alone that you’ll have that warm fuzzy feeling that you are saving the planet while you hydrate.

https://www.chillysbottles.com/

There are so many more wonderful brands out there but here was just a handful for you to check out if you want to do your bit for the world, enjoy!

Thrifty Travel: Dublin

 

It always seems to be the way, your lust for travel is much bigger than your bank balance, you feel like you deserve a holiday but your budget says more ‘camping weekend in the back garden’ than it does ‘trip abroad’.

But there are so many ways you can still get your holiday fix without breaking the bank, my first example, Dublin. Granted this won’t be your standard getting a tan, sipping on margaritas style holiday, however if you are up for a bit of culture, a little adventure, and lot of Guinness, Dublin is a great place to spend a few days and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. So here is my guide to Dublin, what to see, what to do and all on a student budget.

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Travel

Flights

Being from the South West, travel is sometimes a bit of a nightmare, and crucially, extremely pricey. However, flights to Dublin are pretty cheap.

From Bristol to Dublin the flight is almost under an hour and by booking only a couple months in advance, a return ticket cost us £59. Having a quick search online this price seems pretty standard and even when I looked to book for as early as next week the prices seem to stay the same, only varying by £10 or so.

So flights are relatively cheap, but use price comparison sites like SkyScanner or Kayak and you can keep an eye on flights and buy them at the best price. Another massive tip is to try and book flights which mean you arrive to your destination early, and depart late, that way you can make the most of your trip by having a good proportion of the day on your arrival and departure to play with.

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From the airport

Fortunately, Dublin airport is pretty close to the city centre and we found it worked out quite well to hop on a coach which took us directly onto O’Connell Street. For a small €12 we had a return ticket which we could use at any time to get us back and it took us straight to the heart of Dublin within 25 minutes.

Day to day

So, if you really want to save money and you are staying in somewhere pretty central then there is no better way to experience the city for free than walking from place to place. In general, much of the tourist attractions in Dublin are fairly close together and so walking shouldn’t be a problem.

Although we stayed pretty central, (if we knew which way to walk it would have only taken us about 20 minutes to walk to the centre), Dublin has a super easy and fast tram system that I would encourage you all to take advantage of. For less than €5 we had a return which got us to the centre in 5-10 minutes and once there, we walked the rest. Taking the tram made life so much easier, it’s really simple to understand and felt a lot safer when we were coming home after dinner and drinks out. They also run stupidly regularly. If you’re staying for longer than a couple of days it also might be worth investing in a ‘leapcard’, they sort of work like oyster cards where you can top them up with money and scan it at the tram stop.

Warning: It is super easy to fall into a false sense of security and think that it is not worth buying a tram ticket because there are no barriers or officials on the trams 24/7. However, ‘tram security’ do regularly hop on and check your tickets and issue fines for not having one, which is seriously not worth it when a return costs next to nothing.

Accommodation 

Airbnb have it pretty sorted. For a whole flat only a 5-minute walk to the Guinness Factory and a 10-minute tram ride into the main centre between 3 of us we found a place for £64 each for 2 nights. Airbnb was super handy as by talking to our host we could check in early and check out late and had the entire flat to ourselves. Because Dublin is a major city, there are literally so many places listed on the site so you can go mega cheap and just hire a room in a house, or splash out more and get an entire apartment. But I would look at these as early as possible as all of the good ones can get booked up quickly.

Another cheaper alternative are hostels which are dotted all around the centre at the fraction of the price of a hotel.

Food and drink  

Food and drink is probably the only thing I would say requires a bit more of a ‘splurge’, but that still doesn’t mean you can’t save a few pennies here and there.

If you do what we did and get yourself an Airbnb, you are already setting yourself up to save some money since you will normally have a kitchen in an apartment. If you’re in even more luck like we were, your host might provide some tea or coffee and smaller bits like cereal, and then your breakfast is sorted. If not, it will cost you much less to buy some bread and some cereal than it will to eat breakfast out, and if you are in mega saving mode you could even make packed lunches.

But in general we found it quite easy to have a bit of early morning breakfast at the apartment, head into the city and start sightseeing and then grab some brunch/lunch from a local café. Dublin is full of hundreds of restaurants so grab a couple of guides or just wonder round and there is something for everyone. On our first night we had some really reasonably priced tapas right in the centre of temple bar, and on the second we knew we wanted to have some traditional Irish Stew so went fully traditional and had it in the Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub.

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All in all, food can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it, the only thing you might need to give on, is if you’re partial to a cheeky pint. Now granted, since we were only staying for a couple of nights we didn’t take the time to branch out and try and find some cheaper places to drink and stuck to the good old Temple Bar area. But you can imagine my face when I asked the bar tender for two glasses of red wine and he replied ‘€15 please’. This is coming from a girl who wouldn’t pay anymore than £7 for a whole bottle back at home, though. That being said, even a pint of Dublin’s world famous Guinness set us back €6.80, and my poor housemate paid €6.30 for the pleasure of a traditionally cheap and cheerful Bulmers.

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Smiling through the pain and savouring every last drop.

So if you’re planning on drinking on your trip my advice would either be bite the bullet, or if your stay is a little bit longer than ours was, have an explore outside of the main tourist traps, prices might be a little cheaper!

Attractions

Top tip: If you are a student TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE, most of the places we went to offered a student discount (so make sure you bring your student card with you), and it makes a lot of difference.

Free:

Trinity College: Dublin’s famous university is free to enter and have wonder round, it’s a really impressive building and has some beautiful grounds. You can also pay for a guided tour which if you’re interested in its history might be a good idea.

Temple Bar: A vibrant and bustling section of the city filled with traditional Irish pubs, restaurants and gift shops. Enjoyed best in the evening where you can drop into one of the many pubs and listen to some live music.

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Grafton Street: If shopping is your thing, then head down to Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping area. Filled with well known brands and independent stores it would be quite easy to spend a whole afternoon there. We also visited just to feel like we were part of the Ed Sheeran song.

Paid:

Guinness Factory: So worth the tour if not only for the fact the brewery is AMAZING. The tour is self guided and not only offers a student discount but you can also get cheaper tickets if you book at certain ‘off peak times’. You work your way through 6 floors of the history of Guinness from how its made, to their advertising. Your ticket also buys you a sample and lesson in how best to ‘experience’ Guinness as well as a free pint at the end in their impressive skybar which gives you views across the whole of Dublin. Student ticket: €18 Adult Ticket: Anything from €14-€20 depending on the time you book for and how early in advance you book!

Top tip: So we might have just been lucky, but stick around the skybar for a bit, quite often people get to the top and don’t want their free pint, or are under aged and so hand their free coupon to people who want it – in the 45 minutes we were up there we got offered an extra 4 free pints (but maybe we just looked like poor students who needed it).

Christ Church Dublin Cathedral:

Founded in 1028 this beautiful cathedral is worth an explore. At ground level the building boasts stunning stain glass windows and an impressive organ. But explore further and you can take a walk through the medieval crypt featuring a mummified cat and rat discovered in the cathedral’s organ and Ireland’s first copy the Magna Carta.

€6.50, Adults, €5, Students

Dublin Castle:

Yet another remarkable building, and a place you can save some money on too! Dublin’s castle is a great opportunity to see how ‘the other half’ lived as you walk around drawing rooms with beautiful ceilings and great halls bigger than your house. You have the option to take a guided or self-guided tour, with the guided you get to see the Viking Excavation and Chapel Royal, so if that is something that peaks your interest it might be worth spending the extra €3. However, for just a peak round the state apartments and exhibitions, it’s a little cheaper to go with a self guided tour. The castle also has some lovely grounds where you can sit and enjoy a bit of lunch.

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Top tip: You can actually download a free app which gives you an audio tour of the state apartments, saving you spending the extra for a guided tour.

Guided: €10 Adults, €8 Students
Self Guided: €7 Adults, €6 Students

Kilmainham Gaol Museum:

This was one of my favourite attractions we visited over the three days. Open from 1796-1924, the Gaol is now open to the public to take a tour round and witness the place where many prisoners of the Irish Civil War and leaders of many rebellions were held. Holding everyone from political prisoners, child thieves and murders, the well informed tour guide shows you some of the most harrowing and impressive features of the building. Getting to actually walk into the cells prisoners spent years of their lives and stand in the room some men and women spent their last nights’ in was such a weird and interesting experience and I fully recommend you take the trip over.

They do recommend that you book your tickets in advance, not only because the tickets are slightly cheaper but also because it gets extremely busy, we were very lucky to get there first thing and squeeze in on an early morning tour, but booking online would be a good idea.

Online:  €8 Adults, €4 Student
Walk-in: €9 Adults, €5 Student

So in 3 short days we managed to do a lot, but Dublin is filled with so many more wonderful museums and boasts a lot of fascinating tours. Dublin is a great cheap get-away for culture lovers and guinness drinkers alike, and I hope my lengthy post also saves you a euro or two!

 

Lessons from Abroad: Costa Rica

Last summer, after over a year of saving hard, team West travelled for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to Costa Rica. To say it was an adventure would be an understatement. We were staying in a super rural part of the island, the roads should have come with a warning that they may be unsuitable for anyone with a nervous disposition, and we spent our days sharing sun loungers with the local iguanas. However, it was genuinely one of the most fun and exciting holidays I had ever been on, surrounded by the rainforest and its wildlife, amazing food and the most welcoming local community.

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The holiday came at one of the most perfect times for me personally. After finishing an exciting but really tough first year at university, moving away from home, and working super hard at my job, two weeks away from civilisation to explore and relax was just what I needed. And while we were away this phrase came up a lot: Pura Vida.

Pura Vida, is one of the most commonly used phrases in Costa Rica. Used as a greeting, farewell, to let people know you’re doing well, or just to say thanks etc. In its simplest translation, Pura Vida, means ‘pure life’, but it is also similar to sayings such as ‘real living’, ‘full of life’ or even our favourite Disney phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’. And like the Danish have taken Hygge, using it not only in its literal sense, but also as a basis for their way of life, so too, has Pura Vida become a way of life for the people of Costa Rica, which is something I think we could all learn from.

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To Costa Ricans, Pura Vida means that no matter what your situation in life is, someone could always be less fortunate. They believe that no matter how much or how little you have in life, life is too short to worry about it and that we should just live it as optimistically and fully as possible.

And wouldn’t the world be a much happier place if we didn’t worry about how much stuff we do or do not have, and instead appreciate our lives for what they are. And the Costa Rican people seem to have it pretty sorted. They have no standing army, (and haven’t since the 50s), they are one of the most valued environmental destinations, with a quarter of the country consisting in protected forests and reserves, and they have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world. They live healthy, balanced lives, with respect for nature, one another and themselves.

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Even just being there for two weeks I felt I began to understand this deeply ingrained value more and more. Half way through the holiday, the internet at our apartment stopped working for an entire week and as more time went on, the less fussed I seemed to become. I was enjoying time with my family, seeing some of the most amazing views I have ever experienced and really understanding how fortunate I am to have the life I do.

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So one of my first lessons from abroad, is Pura Vida. Appreciation, optimism, and living life for the now. And so I here I am sharing my lesson with the rest of the world (or just my parents, who make up 85% of my page views). But I feel like in the interesting and sometimes scary time we are living in, some lessons from places and people who seem to be keeping pretty happy and out of trouble, couldn’t hurt.

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Much Love x

Caring is Cool, and so is Voting

Well, today is the day. And yes, sorry, I am going to be another one of those people who add to the noise on social media and write about today’s General Election.

I haven’t posted anything online up until this point. In all honesty, as much as I try and stay educated on the matter as much as possible, I don’t know enough about politics and parties to start a debate in person or on social media, much less would I want to, as 9 times out of 10 you are arguing with a person that isn’t going to change their mind and suddenly vote a different way because you gave them a statistic. I also hold very strongly, that people should make their own minds up, look at the evidence, and vote for a party they truly believe in.

And so this is not a ‘vote for this person’ sort of post. This is a ‘whoever you want to vote for, just make sure you go out and vote’ post. Today is an opportunity to exercise your right to have your voice heard, and even if it ends in a result you didn’t wish for, you can have comfort in the fact you DID vote and that your vote DID matter. It has been a bit of a mental year for the world, and I know that the last few months have been a terrifying time for all of us, and while sometimes we feel so helpless in situations such as these, the one thing you can do that is guaranteed to make a difference, is vote.

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So wether you’re voting for ‘the many, not the few’, a ‘strong and stable leadership’ or anything in-between, make sure along with that decision, you also make the decision to actually vote.

I realise this might be a bit like white-noise to all of you at the minute, with everyone and their dog shouting politics at you over the last few months, so to lighten the mood a little, here are some General Election ‘facts’ for your entertainment.

Ladies, June 8th is important

104 years ago, on the 8th of June 1913, Emily Wilding Davidson died. She was an active suffragette who spent her life fighting for women to have the right to vote. She went to prison, endured horrific force-feeding and even hid in a cupboard in the Palace of Westminster during the 1911 census so she could list her place of residence as the ‘House of Commons’. On the 4th of June she stepped out in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby holding a suffragette scarf, was struck down, and died 4 days later. Emily Davidson died fighting for my right to vote, for the women of future generations right to vote. Voting is a right that thousands of other women had to struggle to obtain and today, the 8th of June marks the anniversary of Emily’s death. So ladies, honour the fight that these women had, and make your voice heard, it was only 89 years ago that universal suffrage was even made law!

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^ How being allowed to vote makes me feel ^

 

Why Thursday? 

Turns out, that until 2011, voting on a Thursday was not law, it was just a customary tradition. Many have claimed that Thursday was chosen to try and reduce the numbers of drunk and disorderly voters, since pay-day was traditionally Friday. This was also to avoid voters from becoming influenced by ‘conservative-leaning brewers’, the same as a Sunday was off the cards due to a possible influence from a ‘liberal clergy’. Regardless, the last General Election not to be held on a Thursday was way back in 1931, and unless there are particular special circumstances, it is now law that they are held on a Thursday.

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Liquid Courage 

Following on from ‘drunk and disorderly’, it is actually acceptable to have a few pints before voting, and polling staff can’t actually turn inebriated voters away. However, it isn’t the best idea to get Saturday-night blackout drunk, as if you appear incapable to vote you will have to answer a series of questions to prove you are capable, fail, and you get sent away to sober up.

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So maybe just the one pint then.

Can I bring a friend? 

So guess what, dogs are allowed to come along to the polling station with you! Well, so long as they don’t disrupt the vote. Look out for the hashtag #dogsatpollingstations to get your fix of politically active furry friends.

X marks the box 

So it turns out, although your voting slip will ask you to put an ‘X’ in the box of your chosen candidate, you can actually put pretty much anything. As long as your voting intention is clear, your vote will still be counted, even if its a tick or a smily face. So you could get creative this year, but it might be better to be safe than sorry.

 

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So whatever you do today, spare 5 minutes to get down to your polling station and make your voice heard!

Much Love x

Naughty but Nice: Black Bean Brownies

The weird ingredients continue… more legumes in chocolate based treats, stop messing with what is already good I hear you cry! But I guess at the end of the day I just really like cooking, especially if it’s a bit out there, and bonus if it’s something healthy that tastes so good!

So I present to you, black bean brownies filled with a raspberry chia jam for good measure. The black beans are packed with fibre, potassium, vitamin B6 and actually help to lower cholesterol in the blood. Chia seeds in the jam are literally full of everything good from omega-3, protein, antioxidants, calcium to loads of vital vitamins and minerals. Also, if you use cacao powder in this recipe, it is full of antioxidants, iron, magnesium and calcium – but I realise both chia seeds and cacao powder are expensive, so regular unsweetened cocoa powder will still do the job!

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Once again for anyone who suffers from allergies/intolerance this recipe is completely gluten and dairy free as well as being vegan so almost everyone can enjoy!

I had a major issue with sourcing canned black beans at the time, so had to buy some dried ones and cook them first, which is totally fine, it just takes a LOT longer to make – so if you can, find the canned stuff.

Black Bean Brownies with Raspberry Chia Jam
Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, low-sugar

Serves: 6 ish (or 12 if you use small ‘cupcake’ cases)

Ingredients:
For the brownies:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp of Cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
½ cup oats (40g)
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup maple syrup (75g)
¼ cup coconut oil, melted (40g)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup extra dark chocolate baking chips (140g) (optional!)

Raspberry chia jam:
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (140g)
1½ tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp chia seeds

Method:
For the jam:

  1. Microwave the raspberries for 1 minute and then mash them all together
  2. Add the sugar and microwave for another 30 seconds then stir in the chia seeds then place in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours or over nightIMG_0972.JPG

For the brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’c and line a muffin tin with muffin cases
  2. Combine the beans, cocoa powder, oats, salt, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, and baking powder in a food processor and blend until smooth
  3. Stir in the chocolate baking chips.
  4. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of batter in each muffin case, put 2 teaspoons of raspberry chia jam on top of each mound of batter and then divide the remaining batter among the muffin cases to cover the jam
  5. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 18 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely and then transfer to the fridge for at least 1 hour to firm up.

And then they are all ready to go! Packed full of goodness, but just gooey and delicious as regular brownies (and everyone knows raspberries and dark chocolate are just the best combination!!).

Self-Care is Selfless

Everyone has those days. You know, THOSE days. Those days when you get a bit overwhelmed, a bit tired or stressed, those days when you just want your bed, your mum, no human contact, a hug, or a combination of them all. It’ll often just be a shocking day at work, a series of unfortunate situations, or in my case at the moment, revision and exam stress.

Days like these are such an infinitely small part of our lives, yet at the time they seem so overwhelming and never ending its really hard to take a step back and realise that, this too, shall pass. With the advent of Mental Health Awareness Week last week, I fully realise that sometimes ‘those days’ aren’t just ‘days’ they can be weeks, months, or even years. And while there is no quick fix for things as all-consuming and often as devastating as mental illnesses, I very humbly offer my small contribution to this matter. I, very fortunately, do not suffer from any mental health issues, and so this post is not directly aimed for ‘people who suffer with a mental illness’, because that would be wrong of me to even attempt to assume I know what you are going through, how could I possibly know! But this, very respectfully, came out of my having a bit of a tough day, and a wish to share some love for anyone else who is having a tough day too.

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Team West always cheer me up x

This is for the people who have had a shocker of a day at work, for the students who feel like exams are getting a bit too much, for the people who just felt a bit under the weather today. I think it is a very British thing to just power on and ware yourself down, to martyr your hard work and never stop to breathe. And so I guess, in particular directed at my fellow revising students at the moment, I preach one message to you today – self-care is selfless.

Its something I have really realised, especially since moving to university, that self care is so so important, and I implore you all today, this week or whenever you feel like its all getting a bit too much, to take a step back and look after yourself.

With that in mind, here are some super easy and mostly free ways to just take some time away to look after number one:

  1. Get some Headspace

Ok, at risk of sounding a bit ‘new-age’, everyone should download this app right now. Headspace is a free meditation app which has genuinely changed my life. The app just asks you to take 10 minutes out of your day whenever and wherever you are, and all you do is listen to ‘Andy’ guide you through breathing exercises and channels you to be more aware of yourself and your surroundings. At first I was sceptical, but by following its guidance this made me feel calm when I have been in my biggest panic modes, and while I might forget it sometimes, it has really changed my perspective on life.

  1. Take me to bed

This is basically my go-to thing to do every day during exam season, but it works wonders. Change your sheets so they’re fresh and get out fresh pyjamas. Take a super long shower, light some candles/ put on some music or a film and then crawl into your clean bed. Simple, but satisfying.

  1. Time for tea

So I might be biased because I am British and I adore tea. But even something as simple as taking time out to slowly and mindfully make a cup of tea and then sit down and enjoy it can occupy your mind for a while, calm your thoughts and just forces you to step back even for 2 minutes. Plus, it just happens to be super comforting and delicious.

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  1. Go on a walk
    (Or do some exercise)
    Things can very quickly escalate and spiral in your mind if you’re stressed and overthinking work etc. When you feel like you are about to reach panic mode, just stand up and leave your desk and go on a walk. Even if its only 10 minutes. Switching your focus even for the briefest of moments will bring down your stress levels significantly and might just give you a clearer mind when you return.

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  1. Food glorious food

Now this tip can go one of two ways. Cooking, for some, can be an extremely therapeutic ritual. Home baking is comfort food at its best, so if you love to cook, take a couple of hours out to bake your favourite treat and after sit and really enjoy it. For others, the thought of cooking after a long day is possibly the last thing that you want. If that is the case, order in your favourite takeaway or even pick up a ready meal from the supermarket. Anything which makes your life easier and helps you unwind.

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  1. Detox, without a green juice in sight

The world online can be a bit of a stressful place sometimes. I do very strongly believe if you are having a bit of a moment, one of the worst things you can do for yourself is scroll through the narrow and deceiving world of social media to make you feel even worse. I have witnessed many times when social media can be a wonderful place for support, however, sometimes taking a step away, even 15 minutes before bed can help you realise that the internet is not always accurate and the world will not implode if you don’t refresh Instagram every second of the day.

  1. Face-mask and chill

Girls and guys, there nothing wrong with a cheeky facemask. Or just a pamper in general. Whack on a face mask, pour yourself a glass of wine and just congratulate yourself that you got through the day. What’s that you say, its only Monday? Even more reason to treat yourself.

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  1. Rhythm is a dancer

A good old dance around in my room to some upbeat music always puts me in a better mood. (If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right). So if dancing isn’t your thing, even if you are revising hard, take 5 minutes to play some happy tunes to keep you motivated.

  1. Treat yo self

Pair of socks caught your eye? Maybe you’ve ran out of your favourite expensive shampoo. Fancy a pint? Whatever floats your boat, treat yourself to something nice just because.

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  1. Sleeping beauty knows what’s up

Simple. The day can’t end soon enough, so get some rest. Tomorrow is a new day, so wake up fresh and smash it.

So whatever state you are in today, I hope these help. In general, I think this is just a message of do whatever makes you happy, and you deserve to look after yourself as much as anyone else. Self-care is selfless.

Also, genuinely true, as I was typing this my housemate came upstairs and gave me some flowers she bought from her trip to the shops. It made my evening.

Much Love x

Naughty but Nice: Revision Snacks

Snacking during long periods of revision, hard days at work or when you are just plain bored is the biggest weakness for most of us. It is so easy to reach for a handful of biscuits or a packet of crisps, which gives us a spike of energy, only to make us crash an hour later. I know for a fact that staying relatively healthy around deadline season is near impossible, after I post this I am probably going to dive into my bar of salted caramel chocolate which is just staring me in the face. However, if you’re like me and like to pretend that you can fight the urge and remain healthy for a little while longer, here are two great, easy to make and store snacks to keep you going.

Roasted Chickpeas

Once again my favourite versatile legume takes centre stage for this super easy savoury snack.

They say having a handful of nuts a day is really good for you (so while I’m at it there is a great fuss-free revision snack right there), but if you are anything like me and want to save a few pennies here and there, a bag of almonds or pistachios can be pricey sometimes. Not to mention they’re only really good for you if you get them plain and not swimming in honey or salt.

Enter the mighty chickpea. Packed with protein and fibre, these little wonders are the new, cheaper replacement for nuts, trust me.

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas
1 tbsp smoked paprika
Pinch of salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200’c, drain the water from your chickpeas and then place them on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll to soak up excess water
  2. Once they’re mostly dry place on a baking tray and cover in the salt, pepper and paprika
  3. Chuck them in the oven for around 30 minutes – you basically want them to dry out, go golden brown and be crunchy when you eat them

Place them in an airtight container and keep them in your bag for the perfect on-the-go snack to see you through revision, work, long train journeys etc.

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The best part about these is you can experiment with lots of different herbs and spices mix up your snacking. For example, try adding some mixed herbs, cayenne pepper, chilli flakes, lime or garlic, the world is your chickpea!

Apple Crisps

Perfect for the times where you just want to reach for the packet of biscuits or a chocolate bar when you are seriously slumping during revision, or 3pm on a work day, these apple crisps are naturally sweet and easy to keep in your bag.

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Ingredients:

2 apples
1 tbsp cinnamon

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 120’c
  2. If you have access to a mandolin/ some form of slicer, then make use of that bad boy now. If not, (like me) using a knife, cut the apple into thin slices, the thinner the better!
  3. Arrange on a baking sheet and dust with cinnamon, and a bit of sugar if you want them extra sweet
  4. Place in the oven for about 40 minutes and then remove and leave to cool. This is the crucial bit, leaving them to cool is where most of the ‘crisping’ will take place, so don’t be tempted to move them straight after you take them out of the oven or they will remain slightly soggy!

 

So whether you are slaving away in the library, stuck at your desk all day or just need some better ways to snack, give these a try. They are perfect in an airtight container left in the bottom of your bag, so when that inevitable temptation to reach for the biscuit tin creeps in, you have something delicious to stop you, at least for a little while!

 

Naughty but Nice: Chickpea-Chocolate Mousse

The bank holiday has ended, Easter is now a distant memory, and if you are anything like me, you may have indulged in the chocolate and wine just that little too much. Easter is quite often the time for a revival of new-years resolutions where people get a little disgusted (and impressed) with how much food their body can consume and decide to hit the gym and cut the crap again.

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But let’s be honest, it is really hard to resist over-indulging every now and again. And so to reconcile myself (and maybe give some of you some inspiration in the process) I have tried and tested some delicious recipes which not only taste oh-so-good and a little bit indulgent, but actually are oh-so-good for you! So here is your first ‘serving’:

Chickpea-Chocolate Mousse

Okay so bare with me – chickpeas, in chocolate mousse? I thought the same, just to weird you out more, on top of that, you don’t actually use the chickpeas, you use the water they’re soaked in, (the technical name for it, I have now learnt is ‘aquafaba’). But after some scepticism I decided to experiment, and these are the real deal. What’s best is the recipe only calls for 3 ingredients, making this treat gluten free, and vegan, (dependant on the chocolate you use), but I only used cheap dark chocolate from Lidi’s and turns out it was vegan anyway!

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I can 100% tell you it is very hard to make a can of chickpeas look ascetically pleasing, and I felt sad enough I was having a photoshoot with a can of legumes…

The chickpea water is packed with protein and everyone knows dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, making this chocolate mousse practically saint-like. Bonus – I kid you not, no one can tell the difference between these and regular homemade chocolate mousse. Believe me, my brother is a sniffer-dog for anything out of the ordinary and healthy and even he couldn’t tell the difference and loved them!

Chickpea-Chocolate Mousse:
Vegan, Gluten-free

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas (only need the water)
120g dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
2 tbsp maple surup (or agave/ coconut syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Method:

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl which is sat over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water)
  2. Add the vanilla extract and maple syrup and leave to cool slightly whilst you do the next step
  3. Use an electric whisk or blender to mix the chickpea water until stiff peaks form and the mixture is fluffy and white in texture (this step is basically the same as if you would whisk up eggs) – you can hand whisk but you will be mixing for quite a while!
  4. Gently fold the chocolate into the chickpea mixture with a spatula until all is combined
  5. Pour out into bowls/ ramekins and leave to set in the fridge for 30-60 mins (but the longer you leave it the better set it will be).18109902_1470102309708150_478748715_o.jpg

Top with some raspberries or strawberries to balance out the sweetness, and there you have it! Quick and easy, protein packed chocolate mousse. Once you get over the fact you’re using chickpeas and try it, it’s a complete game-changer – and means you have use for something you would usually just chuck down the sink!

Much Love x

Can You Like My Selfie?

I’m not really sure where I am going to go with this one. It’s a Thursday afternoon and should be packing to go home, but instead I decided I wanted to write a blog post and I wasn’t really sure what on, so here I am, bare with me.

I, am a 19-year-old university student who is glued to my phone, the internet, and social media 98% of the time. This probably makes me a walking stereotype, the most clued up, yet the most susceptible to the world of social media and image.

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A lot has been written about this, so I don’t claim that my opinions are revolutionary, but they are my opinions none the less. I am also not going to pretend I am some ’above everyone else’ guru on this subject either, because I too, almost daily, fall into the trap of flicking through Instagram and despairing at the fact I am not a tiny, tanned, bikini wearing, green juice drinking, always holidaying model. But here is where I do differ to some girls my age, I know that is not the full story or real life. And on the flip side to that, I fully believe in girl power, so where we shouldn’t ‘fat shame’, we equally shouldn’t berate women who are slimmer or enjoy their kale liquefied. I realise I am full of contradictions on the subject, but the world of social media is sadly not black and white anymore.

Girls my age sigh and tell each other their life ambition is to just get paid to post pictures on Instagram, to get sent products from exclusive brands all the time, sponsored to go to the gym and make appearances at certain events. Is this what I should aspire to? Is this what we have been reduced to? If you don’t get a certain amount of likes on a post, are you even liked, if you don’t take the perfect picture of your brunch and post it on Snapchat, how will anyone know what you did today?

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I’ve tried to write a post about something like this before but I always have so much to say and not enough eloquence to really say it, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Recently, and I don’t judge them for this, some of my friends have said things like ‘can you like my Instagram picture’, ‘is this selfie worthy of uploading’ or, ‘can you like the video I shared so I don’t look like a loser’.

And I think it took me aback a bit. I knew that obviously, social media can be quite immersive sometimes, and I am honestly one of the biggest culprits, I am always uploading things to Instagram. But it really got to me how much validation some of my friends were seeking from it. Almost as if a post didn’t get over 50 likes they weren’t pretty or popular, and I know that for the most part, my friends aren’t like that, they’re super strong and amazing women. But if even they were asking for likes and validation online, what would other girls who weren’t as strong and secure be thinking?

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I do it, I post a picture from when I went on a night out, showered, with a full face of makeup, hair done nicely looking happy. But no one saw that the next day because of deadline stress I was covered in spots, hair a mess, headache from hell and I ate marmite toast all day in my pyjamas – most of what is on Instagram is a tiny snapshot of our lives, and people go mental for it.

To throw another spanner into the works, I think everyone should be allowed to upload the pictures they want, all of the selfies that make them feel good, the bikini pictures from their favourite holiday, the gym shots because they’re proud they worked hard. But what I really want, is for people to stop thinking that the things they see online translate onto real life. That everyone has their shit together just because they can stick a filter on a picture they took a week ago, that less than 50 likes mean they aren’t liked. Do you genuinely know 50 people that you regularly hang out with, who you value the opinion of that much? So why care so much about it online?

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I guess what I am really asking for here, is that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want on social media, upload pictures, voice their opinions, share their happiness – but just don’t feel like you need that validation.

The praise, validation, opinions and compliments that are truly of value, will always get to you in person, from the people you surround yourself by, who actually mean something to you. It’s really lovely when that girl you went to college with likes that arty shot of your avocado on toast, but if she doesn’t like it, should it matter that much? You’ve spoken to her a total of 3 times in your life, should her opinion affect your happiness?

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So that was just some word vomit on a page for you thank you if you stuck with me. But essentially,  be happy with you, and support each other online and in person, do what makes you happy on social media and don’t care what anyone else thinks – life is far too short and so much bigger than your IPhone screen.

Much Love x