Thursday, November 27, 2014

Conwy visit + half marathon


Bodnant Gardens, overlooking Snowdonia national park, Wales

Have you been to Wales? Before our weekend away, I hadn't realised how beautiful it is. I spent much of the time we were there breathing in the views and feeling grateful for the clear weather. We had rain when driving across on Saturday, but Sunday and Monday were beautiful days, cool but sunny (in contrast, it rained so much in London that a local road floaded!).

Our baby hire car (a Toyota Aygo)

There was a lot I enjoyed about the trip. We hired a car, which was itself exciting after 6 months without driving. On the drive up, we stopped in Solihull, where Mr Bite grew up and I enjoyed visiting for the first time in 2012. On this visit the town was crowded with early Christmas shoppers, but even so remained attractive.

Take away lunch (cous cous with dried fruit and pecans, and a festive latte)

Then, of course, there was Conwy itself. Sitting on the north coast of Wales, it is a waterside market town that retains its castle and town walls. We arrived too late to see much on Saturday, but even in the darkness the castle was imposing. By sunlight the next day, it was magnificent.

Views from Conwy castle

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Natural Balance Foods - Nākd bars sampler case


I am really looking forward to sharing some photos from our weekend (and my half marathon) away. It was a great trip, with lots of beautiful scenery.

While I'm sorting out photos, though, I am also really pleased to bring you this review of vegan snack bars by Natural Balance Foods. I have mentioned my love of their Nākd bars before, and I also enjoy their Trek protein bars. The company prides itself on using whole foods in a close to natural form, and all of their bars are vegan, wheat free and gluten free.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fitness Fridays - getting back into cycling, and heading off for another half marathon

With our shipment arriving last month, I was reunited with my bike and able to add cycling to my mix of gym-free activities. I was concerned my bike would need to go back into storage as it would be hard to fit in our flat, but fortunately we've hit upon a solution with locking it and covering it in our shared front courtyard. It takes me about 5 minutes to take the cover off and undo the two locks, but at least I can use it!

Clearly an Australian bike photo...

I haven't used my bike much for serious exercise, but I am now cycling to work 3 times a week. When I wrote my August post about giving up a gym membership, I was running 4 times per week and considering going up to 5 times. That mix included a run home from work once per week. That was a novelty at first, but I will confess to getting tired of it quite soon. I am really not an evening / after work exerciser...

I did end up increasing my running to 5 days per week in the lead up to my Ealing half marathon in September. However, I found the higher mileage sparked some niggling pains and also running fatigue. My bike arrived the week after that race, so it was a good time to re-think exercise routines.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vegan sticky banana pudding

The next time you have some over-ripe bananas to use up, may I suggest this pudding as an alternative to banana bread or banana muffins? It will take you from 'healthy snack' to 'decadent dessert', but I don't think you'll regret the shift.

Better suited to the northern hemisphere autumn than approaching southern summer, this is effectively sticky toffee pudding with banana. It is sticky, and comforting, and very sweet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Aubergine and pepper spaghetti 'bolognese'

I have made this dish twice in the last month, which is a high hit rate when considering that I usually leave pasta dishes to Mr Bite. The first time I made it with relatively large chunks of aubergine (eggplant), but on my re-run I chopped the vegetables into smaller pieces to give a bolognese type sauce.

As you might guess from the frequency of our eating it, we both really enjoyed this dish. It is a satisfying match for cooler, darker evenings, and a delicious use for aubergine. The meal is not very high in protein, but it does provide a great hit of vegetables. Mr Bite has added cheese to his servings, and you could also increase the protein content with a scattering of pine nuts or slivered almonds.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chai spiced chocolate truffles

Do you think it's too early to start Christmas themed posts? Usually I reserve anything Christmassy until December, but London is starting to seem rather festive and, if I'm honest, I rather like it.

If you are Christmas inclined, these truffle balls are perfect for the holiday season. However, they are also perfect for anytime, so you don't have to be in the Christmas spirit to enjoy them. These are surprisingly like commercial chocolate truffles, but are fruit and nut based and coated in cocoa powder (and lucuma powder in my pictures) rather than a solid chocolate coating.

The chai flavours here are subtle but enjoyable, and come from brewed black chai tea and extra mixed spice and vanilla. I thought afterwards that some chilli would have been nice too, so if you like chilli chocolate, that could be an enjoyable twist to try. Of course, you could also choose to coat these in solid chocolate if you prefer your truffles that way.

These are best stored in the fridge, but are firm enough to be packaged up in layers if you want to put together gift boxes. They will also stay firm if left at room temperature for a while, so you can put them out for people to nibble on and not worry that they will collapse!

Chai spiced chocolate truffles
Delicately spiced truffle balls that are perfect for the holiday season, or any season
Makes about 24 truffle balls

Allow at least 4 hours for preparation
Food processor required

Author: Bite-Sized Thoughts

1 cup (250ml) strong chai tea, made with hot water and a tea bag or tea leaves (no milk)
1 cup (140g) sultanas or raisins
1 cup (140g) raw almonds
1/2 tsp mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice, or 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Cocoa powder or other powders, extra, for coating (I used a mix of cocoa and lucuma)

Allow the chai tea to brew for at least 15 minutes, and then add the sultanas/raisins to the tea mixture and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes. 

Transfer the tea and sultanas/raisins to a food processor along with the almonds. Process until the ingredients are finely ground and starting to clump together (due to the tea, the mixture will be easier to process and quite moist compared to standard fruit/nut truffles).

Add the mixed spice, vanilla and cocoa powder to the food processor and process to incorporate. 

Place the truffle mix in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes to firm up.

When the truffle mix has refrigerated for 30 minutes, place your preferred truffle coatings (cocoa powder / lucuma powder / coconut) in separate small bowls. Use a teaspoon to scoop out small truffle balls, and then roll in your hands to shape. Coat in your powder of choice and set aside. Repeat for the remaining balls.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Tell me - are you in the mood for Christmas yet, or is this just too early (I know Americans still have Thanksgiving to come!)?