Thursday, 20 December 2012

Sweet Treats: Snowball cookies

So with Christmas just around the corner, I wanted to try out a festive recipe and after some clever Googling, I came across a recipe on the Channel 4’s food website for snowball cookies. The picture looked so cute, as they look exactly how they sound. With lemon and nuts the main flavours, they’re fairly Christmassy as well, although I’m not tempted to try out some other combinations to see which works well! They melt in the mouth and are so light, I could easily consume the whole batch in a sitting – I won’t, mind.

Makes 28

100g butter
150g icing sugar
150g plain flour
25g chopped walnuts
25g chopped almonds
Grated zest of a lemon
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4
Cream the butter and half (75g) of the icing sugar until soft and fluffy
Sift in the flour before adding the nuts and zest
Mix until it forms a dough (this took a while, because the mixture is very dry. Keep with it though and don’t be tempted to add water or milk)
Once lightly kneaded, wrap in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
Roll into walnut sized balls and bake on a baking tray for 10-12 minutes (this was the trickiest step as the mixture is crumbly and proves impossible to knead or shape. I’m the most impatient person in the world, but I got by fine! I also baked for 15 minutes as had two trays each with 14 cookies on)
Once baked and cooled, dip in the remaining icing sugar – ensuring each cookie is coated

Happy baking!

Other possible combinations:
Orange zest and cranberry
Cinnamon and raisin
Chocolate and nut
Looks like I’m going to be busy trying those out to see which works well. Other combination suggestions are welcomed!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Health: My Graze addiction

If you haven’t heard of ‘Graze’, then where have you been? These delightful snack boxes are an absolute must-have for binge-eaters like myself. I first came across Graze when my mum got a voucher from WH Smith for a free box. Of course, I’m not one to turn down a freebie, so immediately signed up – my first box was free and second, half price. That was February 29th and I’ve been addicted ever since. I’m also still yet to try everything! There’s just so much choice.
At the time my Graze addiction began, I was dieting (Celebrity Slim) and was after healthy nibbles I’d be able to snack on whilst sticking to my meal plan. This is where Graze was so handy. There are three options: lightbox, boostbox, and eatwellbox. I began with the lightbox. Of course you can change your mind, and it’s so simple to do too. Once you’ve chosen your plan, you get two pick between having either a nibblebox or nutritionbox – the nibble box gives you plenty of tasty treats to choose from, whereas the nutrition box, as you’d expect picks out those healthiest snacks.
You then choose which day you want your box delivered – I opted for Wednesday as it’s perfect for midweek, and always a surprise when it arrives! You can also decide whether you want your boxes delivered weekly or fortnightly. I’ve always had them fortnightly, just because I don’t think I’d get through them otherwise; snack overload! Boxes are priced at £3.79 and you can cancel your subscription whenever you want. You can even choose the ‘one-off box’ option.
The best thing about Graze is the ‘browse and rate’ option. If there’s anything you don’t like, you can immediately ‘bin’ those items and in that case, Graze will never send them to you. For example, I don’t like olives or anything too spicy – so I eliminated those. Once you’ve had snacks sent to you, you can rate them by your preference: like I said ‘bin’ are never sent, and there are ‘like’ and ‘love’ – ‘liked’ items will be sent occasionally and ‘love’ will be sent frequently. If you really cannot wait to try something you can press ‘send soon’, but this isn’t available with every option – unfortunately, I’m still awaiting my guilt free high tea!
As you only get four little snack pots per box, you won’t always get your ‘send soon’ items, particularly if you ‘love’ many of them, like me! And although Graze email you the day before with a ‘sneak peak’ of your box (which you can also see when you log in to their website), I love the anticipation of surprise on Wednesday morning when you don’t know what you’ll be getting! Although, I admit, sometimes I just can’t wait and have a cheeky look just to see what I have to look forward to!
Look out for my fortnightly posts, where I’ll be reviewing each product in my Graze box.
Oh, and if you want to jump on the bandwagon, with this code you can have your very own Graze box – and even better, it’s free! B1MFKZN

Monday, 3 December 2012

Health: Living with PCOS (part two)

So as I said in part one, I was about to go into year 13, a big, important year. If that wasn’t stressful enough, I had to contend with trips backwards and forwards to my GP and the community hospital – and various other hospitals across Essex, for ultrasounds and MRI scans. Having been referred to the endocrinologist at the community hospital, I was told I’d need to have a number of blood tests over a period of eight months or so. If that wasn’t bad enough, I’d have to check in with the specialist to monitor how everything was going. It involved: being weighed, having my blood pressure taken, my blood sugar measures and heart rate checked – and that was even before I spoke to the specialist. It then took a further six months to book my MRI scan, another thankless task. By then it was November 2008 – well over a year since I had been diagnosed.
The MRI itself wasn’t too bad really – they basically made me lie on a table in nothing but one of those horrific blue gowns you see in hospitals. I was then wheeled into a tunnel where I was for half an hour, having to contend with a constant clicking noise. I’m not too sure what they found from the images, to be honest, but to cut a long story short, I was prescribed cabergoline. I ended up being on cabergoline for two years. I was told to take half a tablet once a week, making sure it was at a similar time and with or after food. I started taking them on Sunday evenings as that was the only time I seemed to remember, but towards the end of the course, it ended up being Monday lunchtimes – as Monday was a day I got my prescription. They refused to put it on a repeat prescription, so it was a nightmare having to go to mp GP and the chemist before 16 weeks was up. And the side effects were awful...
It was bad enough the symptoms of PCOS were being overweight or an inability to lose weight, but the tablets caused weight gain, so it was a vicious circle. I wasn’t on the pill at the time, but I had been, I would have had to come off it – as it is recommended you’re not on both pills. Then there were the constant migraines and overall drowsiness – and to top it off, an awful shooting pain in the lower abdomen. It was so bad one time; I spent three days in hospital – without food or drink! They thought it could have been a mild form of appendicitis – I blame my rubbish insides!
With my weight being a never-ending battle, I had to seriously watch what I ate. I used to have a sandwich everyday for lunch, this soon turned into half a sandwich and then half a sandwich twice a week – it used to make me feel too bloated. I also had to constantly take note of my weight, and have figures ready for the endocrinologist – just in case my dosage needed to be decreased, or upped.
Being at Uni certainly didn’t help this, especially considering the amount that was drunk some days/nights and the times I forgot to take my tablet – when this was the case, I was told not to have double next time as complications could occur.
I was told to come off the cabergoline in December 2010, after it seemed my condition had improved – everything was starting to add up. I was then given the sign off from the endocrinologist in March 2011. Obviously the symptoms are still there and haven’t gone away completely, but I knew that would always be the case. I feel so much better about myself than I used to though. And I managed to get through it with the support of my family – that’s always the best way!

Oh, and the reason I used to hate talking about it – a comment from a silly boy. Being ‘late’ is commonplace with PCOS sufferers, sometimes it’s a matter of days, other times it could be weeks. In severe cases, they’re skipped. Obviously being so ignorant, he didn’t know this and instead jumped to conclusions and made up a fairly sick rumour. Ignorance is a horrible thing and I’m a firm believer in, ‘if you don’t know or understand, just ask’. I’m more than happy to talk about it to people that genuinely want to know. After all, 10% is a pretty big number and there needs to be some kind of awareness!