Wednesday, 19 April 2017

4 Ingredient Chocolate Walnut Bars

Raw chocolate walnut bars

I've been enjoying getting experimental in the kitchen again recently. And now that I've got my weekday lunch prep sorted, I'm starting to think about the extra snacks. Because no matter how good my lunches are, I can't help wanting a little something to keep me going through the afternoon. So with some tasty ingredients very kindly sent to me by Indigo Herbs*, I've created these tasty chocolate walnut bars.

Easy to make, they require just four ingredients and take almost no time to prepare - just a quick blend together in a food processor!

They're perfect pick-me-up food for the afternoon - packed with protein and healthy fats essential for brain function, plus some mood boosting cacao and banana. Medjool dates add a sweet, caramel-like flavouring to balance out the bitter cacao. They've been great mid-afternoon during my oncalls this week - a quick boost of nutty goodness to keep my energy levels up while I'm running around the surgical ward!

Now let's be honest here. These bars are not meant to be a "healthy alternative" to wonderful things like chocolate brownies. Sometimes in life you just need the oozy, chocolately goodness of fudge brownie warm from the oven. 

But there's a place in the world for these walnut bars too - for when you want something sweet that isn't going to send blood sugar levels all over the place, leaving you craving more. These bars are satisfying, hitting the sweet spot and keeping you there. Plus I've discovered they're extra good smothered in your preferred choice of nut butter. 

Raw chocolate walnut bar recipe

To make six bars:

1 chopped banana
2-4 chopped medjool dates (depending on how sweet you'd like them to be)
50g cacao powder (Indigo Nutrition Organic Cacao)

Start by putting the walnuts into a food processor and blending them to a fine texture. Then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until well mixed and coming together as a sort of dough.

Scoop out the mixture and press/roll into a rectangle approximately 1.5cm thickness. Slice into bars and enjoy!

They'll keep for a few days in an airtight container so, if you're not sharing them, make a batch to enjoy yourself over the next few days!

Bowl of walnuts

Indigo Herbs Walnuts

Indigo herbs cacao powder organic

Food processor walnut bars

Thank you to Indigo Herbs for sending me some products to test out. Recipe and opinions my own!

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Chocolate walnut bars recipe


Sunday, 16 April 2017

Little Things I've Loved This Week #49

Easter Weekend Bunnies

I hope you're all enjoying the long Easter weekend! I'm certainly loving having a few days off - having worked the last two weekends I've been craving a proper break. I've been working a bizarre pattern of shifts recently, thanks to job changeover last week, so it's been a challenge to even keep track of what day it is. This weekend has been great though - I headed home to see my family, and my favourite little dog (who's currently recovering from ligament surgery). I also had a wonderful time at the Health Bloggers Community Summit on Saturday - listening to some of the experts in the health blogging field, and meeting some other lovely people.

Health Bloggers Community Summit

Meeting @audreyfitwell and @flexwithbex at HBCSummit

Here are the little things I've loved this week:

First Magnum ice cream of the year. After a walk in the sunshine on Wednesday morning, I was starting to feel quite warm so picked up a white chocolate Magnum on my way home. It feels so good to be eating ice cream outdoors again!

Leaving the house without a coat. I've been braving it a few times this week and it's been so nice not to have that extra layer to worry about.

Playing with my new food processor.  It's been sat in its box in my kitchen for a few weeks now, waiting for me to have the right combination of time and ingredients to put it to use. I put it to use on Wednesday morning, whizzing up some homemade houmous.

HAPS Superfruit booster

HAPS Superfruit+ Boosters. Rik from HAPS kindly sent over a few samples of this new "serotonin boosting drink" for me to try out. I put them in my bag to take with me during some long on-call shifts. The aim is to help in improving mood, alertness and dealing with stress - all pretty important things for a doctor on-call! The fruity flavour is delicious - plus all those fruit powders contain loads of good vitamins. I added a sachet to a bottle of water, shook it up and enjoyed it. It was also a great way to remind myself to drink something and hydrate myself while at work!

Tulips and sweets

Not killing my tulips! I seem to have developed a bit of a habit of buying fresh flowers on the same day as spontaneously deciding to go away for a few days. It's a bit of sad sight getting home after a weekend and finding drooping tulips all over the counter, so it was genuinely a nice surprise to get back today and see them still looking great!

Seeing Dr Hazel Wallace  (The Food Medic) and Dr Rupy Aujla (The Doctor's Kitchenat the HBC Summit. These two doctors are a huge inspiration to me, combining blogging and social media with successful careers in medicine, so it was great to hear them speak.

Getting faster on my runs. Sticking to my 10km training plan, I was out this morning for a 5-mile run. As I've said in a previous post, I'm aiming to improve my speed but I wasn't really sure if what I've been doing in the gym was at all helpful. Turns out though I'm doing something right as I've managed to knock a full 20-seconds off my average minute-per-.mile pace!

I hope that you're having a wonderful Easter weekend - do let me know what you've been up to this week!

Bluebells at Nuffield Place


Thursday, 6 April 2017

New Goals - Training for a 10km

Physical activity - we know there are plenty of benefits from getting active regularly! How you choose to fit in your recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity is up to you - but you'll be reaping the benefits of better cardiovascular health, mental wellbeing, reducing your risk of diabetes, preventing osteoporosis and generally just feeling better about yourself.

Fitting in regular gym sessions has been much easier than I anticipated, and I genuinely enjoy the routine of working out a few times a week.

However, I've quickly realised I need to have a reason to challenge myself - something to motivate me to push a bit harder, rather than stick to the same old thing.

Just over a year ago I took part in the Bath Half Marathon, and although the training was tough (rainy runs round the backstreets of Yeovil are bizarrely memorable) the actual race was so much fun. I loved the sense of achievement at the end of it and was determined to keep up the running in one way or another.

Except then I jetted off to Cape Town and spent two months dining out, lazing on the beach and tasting wine (and a little bit of hospital work happened too). 

So I've entered the Vitality London 10km race next month. I'd love to run another half marathon but I also wanted something that was achievable alongside my working life. 10km is a distance I know I can manage, which takes that element away and leaves me able to focus on time and speed.

I've got an eight-week training programme to follow, and it was weirdly exciting getting started on it. It's refreshed my gym routine, given me some sort of direction to take and will hopefully lead to a pretty satisfying result. Without an end-goal, it's really easy to opt out of a workout early, or take the easier options. Knowing that I've got a time in mind to run a 10km though is the motivation I need to keep going when it starts getting hard.

With the longer evenings and hopefully warmer weather, I'm also looking forward to getting back to running outdoors - at least for the weekly long runs if not the rest of the training sessions.

I've also decided to use this event to support a deserving charity - Mind. While this is mainly a personal challenge, it seemed a good opportunity to do something good and raise even a small amount for them! If you'd like to offer anything, you can find my fundraising page here.

Who else is working towards a new fitness goal?

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