Monday, 27 July 2015

Food | Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce

It's been a hell of a long time since I did any cooking posts on my blog (way back in 2013 was the last time I think).  I'd been thinking for a while that I'd like post more recipes, and an opportune moment to jump back into it came when I heard about Age UK's campaign focusing on cooking healthy and nutritious meals for one.

Now obviously I'm married, but Gaz and I both lead such busy lives that each of us ends up cooking our own meals from time to time.  Age UK's advice got me thinking about the types of food I try to cook when I'm home alone and I want something fast, nutritious and versatile.  Of course it got me thinking about my tomato sauce...  I cook up big batches of it, use it as a base for loads of meals and it's damn tasty.  Read on if you'd like to know how to cook it...

Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

1. An onion
2. Garlic
3. 1 tin/carton of chopped tomatoes
4. Oregano
5. A chili pepper (optional)
6. Oil (for cooking)
7. Salt and pepper, to taste


Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce


GET YOUR COOK ON

Chop your onions and garlic however you like, it doesn't have to be neat, you're just cooking for yourself here, who've you got to impress?  I always like to throw a chilli in my tomato sauce so I chop that up too.

Soften the onions and garlic for a few minutes in your oil (your chili pepper too if you're using it), until they're just translucent then add in your tinned tomatoes, a good sprinkle of the dried oregano (try 1/4 of a teaspoon to start) and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Leave it to cook for 5 minutes and hey presto in less time than it takes to cook up some pasta to enjoy it with, you've got a basic tomato sauce.  

It's a really easy recipe to double so you can cook up big batches and freeze it, but what's really great about it, is how versatile it is...

Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce
Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce

MIX IT UP!

Here are just a few of the ways I transform this basic recipe to be used for lots different meals.

Arrabiata: Add some extra chopped chilis, a pinch of mixed herbs and some chopped ham to create a really delicious meaty sauce, serve with penne or rigatoni.  A sprinkle of parmesan cheese finishes this one off nicely.
Huevos Rancheros: This one has been a favourite recipe of mine for a long time.  I add some chopped bell peppers and some extra oregano, the warmed up sauce is served on poached eggs on top of toasted tortillas.  Sounds weird I know, but it's really delicious!
Baked white fish: I add some chopped olives, capers and basil to the sauce and bake it in the oven on top of some fish fillets.  It's a beautiful light meal, and goes really nicely with a simple salad and some bread.

There are so many other meals I create using this tomato sauce as a starting point.  What sorts of things do you cook when you're just cooking for one?

To read more about the great work that Age UK do, click here.

SHARON

Friday, 17 July 2015

Blogging | The D*cks and the Cliques


 
Disclaimer: This post might be a little long, a little swear-y, it's full of my opinions and I have a tendency to sound like a thesaurus at times.  If any of those things are likely to offend you then it might not be a good idea to read on...

Blogging is very much a hobby for me; I'm not out there competing for views, comments and shares.  If I get an opportunity or two through my blog, that's awesome but if not it's no skin off my nose.  Perhaps because I don't give two fucks about becoming established as a superior being in the blogger hierarchy I don't find myself embroiled in the melodramas I see happening in the community on a regular basis.  Don't get me wrong, I put myself firmly in the category of someone that is a bit of a dick at times but there are certain types of behaviour I see happening again and again in the world of blogging, and particularly on Twitter, that just go too far.

Differences of opinion 
On more than a few occasions in recent weeks, I've checked my Twitter feed after a long day at work only to find that some drama or other has kicked off.  This would be all well and good should everyone express their opinions like adults, but more often than not, some unsuspecting twitterer, whose only crime is to express an opinion that differs from the masses, is summarily ridiculed and torn apart.

We've all seen it happen, but should we put up with a person or people who find it necessary to treat someone else's opinions with scorn and derision just to assert their own?  Absolutely not!  And lets's not beat around the bush shall we?  These people are not only dicks, but they're bullies, plain and simple.  If we wouldn't put up with it any other walk of life why should we in our community?  I know I won't again if I see this type of shit happening in the future.

Just plain passive aggressive 
When the dust inevitably settles after conflicts of any sort it would be lovely if everyone could agree to disagree and go their separate ways.  Whilst this happens for the most part, there are always a few exceptions, many of which tend to take on a particular form - the passive aggressive tweet.  You know the type I mean, they're dripping in sarcasm, heavily hinting they're not happy about someone or something and are just generally hoping to cause a ruckus.  It's always the same type of people that post and react to these tweets too, you can see them circling like carrion birds.  But you know what?  If you don't have the cojones to come out and say what you mean, or address the people who are bothering you in an up front manner, keep it to your bloody self!

You can keep your clique
Hand in hand with the passive aggressive bullshit comes the cliques.  It's an inevitability that when you get large groups of people together cliques will form.  That's fine if the clique is just a group of people with similar thoughts and opinions and it's all kept friendly, but when they're gathering together to purposefully cause drama I take major issue.  From what I can see that kind of negative crap isn't wanted or needed by the vast majority of bloggers so let's just be buddies shall we?  If you decide you can't play nice, then you know where you can go...

The upside
I'm aware this post sounds pretty negative, but none of us would carry on blogging if it was all bad.  Most people I talk to and meet because of my hobby are genuinely nice and I've been lucky enough to make some true friends in my time in the blogosphere.

There will always be a few people who bring a bad attitude and try to ruin the good vibes, but it's great to see that it doesn't put off a lot of the good folks.  If blogging is what you love then keep on keeping on people!

What do you think? 
Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one!  But unlike the aforementioned sphincter, I'd welcome your opinion in the comments below.

SHARON

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Life | When It All Gets A Bit Sh*t...

I try not to get massively negative about things, but sometimes life just gets a bit shit, you know what I mean?

Between my house getting burgled in February, my energy hitting rock bottom and getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism and then a family member ending up in court (for something that wasn't their fault) it's all felt like a bit much to take!


But not for me the furrowed brow (as my favourite vampire slayer once said).  I figure life is all about how you decide to deal with things and so I've got myself a new-found determination to keep being my usual chilled self and to make sure I'm doing things, however little, to make my life happier.

So far that's meant taking some time off work, having a weekend away with my husband, indulging in a bit of pampering, and even writing on StargazyEyes again.

Here's hoping a positive attitude can help my life turn a corner eh?  Until next time...

SHARON

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Work It Out Wednesday #3 | My Training Regime

Can you believe it's time for another Work It Out Wednesday already?  It seems like only 5 minutes since I wrote the last one, but you know what they say, time flies when you're having fun... or something!

As I mentioned in my first post, exercising has become a massive part of my life in the last year, and despite my struggles to lose weight, I've still had some success in building my strength and stamina, using a range of methods.

Work It Out Wednesday #3 | How I've Been Training

Personal Training
When I first started working out in a gym I really had no idea what I was doing, so working with a personal trainer seemed like a good place to start.  My initial thought was that I'd just use a PT for a month or two, enough time to learn the right form in exercises and how to structure a workout for myself.  As time went on however, working with a PT became much more, it motivated me when I otherwise might not have exercised, helped me to identify and set myself goals, and more importantly made me want to keep up with my new regime in the long term.  I know it's a pricey option, but if you can afford to see a personal trainer I think it's definitely worth it.

Strength/Weight Training
Not too long ago I would have counted myself amongst the scores of women who think that lifting weights makes you bulky or overly muscular, but oh how wrong I was!  I've found that performing strengh training, either with weights or just with my body weight, is great at keeping my heart rate going whilst improving my strength and it definitely hasn't made me bulk up, but rather tone up.  My favourite way of exercising with weights is to superset certain exercises.  As an example I might do a set of 12-15 squats, followed immediately by a set of walking lunges (15 on each leg), rest for a minute or 2 then do the same again for another 2 or 3 sets.  For a complete training session I'll do a range of supersets encompassing as many large muscle groups as possible, it definitely gets me working!

HIIT Training
HIIT (or high intensity interval training) is the most recent addition to my exercise routine, it's without a doubt the hardest form of exercise I do, but it's over pretty quickly, and the rewards certainly make it worthwhile.  I started my HIIT training just over 2 weeks ago, I use the treadmill for the most part, running as fast as I can for 30-45 seconds (admittedly not very fast right now) before having a rest interval of a minute to catch my breath.  I'll repeat this process around 12 times, and let me tell you, by the end of it I'm absolutely knackered.  Why do I do HIIT training?  Well, it's a brilliant fat burner, and already in two weeks I'm able to run faster and for far longer.  I can't wait to see what I can do as my training progresses.

I do feel like my training schedule is pretty full, but I love it and would still like to include more variety, potentially to include some classes like boxercise or circuits and maybe some yoga to improve my flexibility.

I'd love to hear about any training that you do, leave me a comment below.

SHARON

Monday, 8 June 2015

Event | BSN and Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Last month I was pretty excited to get to go to my first ever fitness event, at Predator Nutrition in Leeds, and even better, I got to go with one of my favourite bloggers, Corinne.

The reason for this particular event was two-fold.  First, it was the latest stop on the UK tour for the BSN sponsorted bodybuilder, Flex Lewis and second it introduced a new protein supplement from BSN to the UK.

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds
 
When we arrived at the Predator Nutrition store, it seemed like it was full to the brim with BSN products and athletes, but not only that it was full of people waiting to meet Flex Lewis.  Before we met with the man himself we spoke a bit with staff at the store and also to one of the other BSN athletes in attendance, Carly Tierney.  She was genuinely lovely (and so pretty) and answered all of our questions about training and nutrition, no matter how daft I felt mine were.  The key thing I took away from meeting Carly was that it's all in the attitude, if you're focussed, you'll get to your goals.

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Next up we checked out BSN's new product, Syntha-6 Edge.  I was aware of the original Syntha-6 protein as it's a brand that my own PT recommends so I was really interested to learn that Syntha-6 Edge not only has more protein at around 24g per serving, but is lower in calories, fat, sugar and carbs than the original version too.  Sounds perfect for someone like me who is trying to lose weight.

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Last but not least, we got the chance to meet Flex Lewis.  He's a huge deal in bodybuilding circles (my personal trainer was so excited I was meeting him) and amongst many other titles is the three-time winner of the 212 Olympia Showdown, a bodybuiding contest for professional athletes weighing 212lbs or less.  I expected to be hugely intimidated by Flex (especially after researching him a bit the night before) but he came across as a really nice guy and was sharing stories about how he got his start in bodybuilding.  Such an inspiring bloke!

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Before I left Predator Nutrition for the afternoon, I had to have a good nosy around too, they stock a great range of supplements of every type and some great food.  I stocked up on some Walden Farms sauces and my new favourite thing, the MusclePharm Combat Crunch Bars.  The chocolate chip cookie dough flavour is a serious life changer, I might have to buy myself a whole case from soon!

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Finally I left the store, armed with my purchases and a BSN goodie bag including some sample supplements (the strawberry milkshade protein is delicious), a protein shaker, iPhone case, earphones and a t-shirt (mine had some big holes in it so I can't wear it, but it's the thought that counts).


Read more about the event direct from the Predator Nutrition blog, here.

SHARON

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Work It Out Wednesday #2 | 90 Day SSS Plan First impressions

Woo check me out keeping up with my new series, I hope this becomes a habit for a very long time!  As promised in my first Work It Out Wednesday post, every week I'll be posting something relating to my continuing efforts to improve my health and fitness.  This week that something is my first impressions of the 90 Day Shape, Shift and Sustain Plan from the Body Coach.

The Body Coach 90 Day Shape, Shift & Sustain Plan - 90 Day SSS Plan

I feel like you have to have been living under a rock recently to not have seen Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach on social media.  His #LeanIn15 recipe videos are all over Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and more recently Joe himself has been appearing on TV and in newspapers and magazines.

Although I'd followed Joe on Instagram for a good 6 months, it was my husband Gaz who decided to sign up to his programme initially, and after a month of trying it himself, seeing my struggle with the diet my PT had me on, coupled with the issues I've been having with my thyroid, he decided to pay to sign me up too.  I was over the moon.

At £149 (we had a discount code that Gaz used for me) the 90 Day SSS Plan isn't exactly cheap, so I imagine you'll be wondering what you get for the cash?  Well as the name suggests you get a 90 day healthy eating and fitness plan, split into three cycles, specifically tailored to help you burn fat, build lean muscle and sustain your new physique in the long term.

When Cycle One arrived in my inbox I was really surprised about the wealth of information, yes you get recipes and workout plans as you'd suspect, but what I hadn't expected so much was the level of nutritional information I was getting and it's started to help me understand how and when I need to fuel my body.

So what did I find when I started the plan?  Five days in and I was completely knackered, I'd done two HIIT sessions (of the four-five required per week) and the famed giant portion sizes that I'd seen everyone talk about didn't seem that big at all.  I was starving at times and so very tired, so didn't think I could sustain the plan long term, but a few days later something just clicked.  The food was keeping me fuelled all day and the HIIT training became challenging but oddly energising.

As it is I'm more comfortable with the plan and really looking forward to seeing what it does for me.  Since submitting my starting measurements, I haven't been near the scales or a tape measure, and I won't again until it's time to submit my Cycle One Results.  Of course I'll share more about the plan as I progress through the three cycles, fingers crossed the results are good!

If you'd like to know more about The Body Coach and the 90 Day SSS Plan, you can find all the info you need here.

Have you embarked on a healthy eating plan recently, or have you tried the 90 Day SSS Plan yourself?

SHARON
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