mini recipe | roasted broccoli…

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So if there is one thing you should know about August it is that it is going to bankrupt me. Two weekends away on the trot, a big old payment on the old credit card bill, and things like driving lessons and trips to Venice in the autumn all make my purse want to squinch up tight and refuse to let go of any cash unless it absolutely has to. Months like this happen, when everything (and every bill) seems to come all at once. It’s month like this that I thank god I’m a vegan (admittedly not always a very good one) with incredibly simple tastes. Sure you can get all fancy with your health food shops and every pulse under the sun, but like I’ve said many times before, the best way to keep on track and to keep your bank balance happy, is to eat simply. And what can be more simple than Broccoli?

I must admit, in the past I’ve over looked broccoli as an over cooked thing. Is there anything worse than soggy greens? But since going vegan, I’ve started to see that basically all veg has infinite amount of potential (except sprouts). So here’s the story, the other night I came home to look in my fridge and see food in there, but not necessarily food that came together to make a meal. Broccoli, spring onions, sweetcorn, a chilli, potato, hummus, garlic. Sure these things all have their part to play, but where’s the leading role, the one with that extra something special? This is when not so skint me would normally head to the shop, to find something that acted as the main star of the event to compliment the small parts. But not so skint me said ‘there’s no such thing as a small part, just a veg that needs seasoning’ or something like that. ANYWAY the point is, I decided to take shy old broccoli out of the wings, and put it centre stage and this is what happened…

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The cast…

1 medium broccoli
2 spring onions
1 mild chilli
1 large clove of garlic
The zest of a quarter of a lemon
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to season

The production process…

1. Dice the spring onion and the chilli up and throw into a mixing bowl with the minced garlic clove and lemon zest.

2. Add your teaspoon of soy sauce, and cover the ingredients in olive oil.

3. Cut off the florets of the broccoli (you can use the stem too, but this does take longer to roast so just be aware of that when cooking) and throw into the bowl.

4. Make sure all the broccoli is rubbed into the olive oil, chillies, lemon and onion, you can add a little more olive oil if you need to.

5. If you have time, stick the bowl in the fridge to marinate for half an hour (or longer if you’re preparing in advance. I didn’t bother with marinating because I was hungry and it was still delicious, but marinating literally makes everything even better.

6. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper and pop your florets on to it in a single layer. If there are still chillies, garlic and onion at the bottom of the bowl make sure you get this onto the tray too, but try not to have any excess oil slithering around, as this leads to soggy broccoli and I’ve already made my feelings on that perfectly clear.

7. Pop into a preheated oven for about 15 minutes and voila, Broccoli’s Hollywood makeover is complete.

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I ate my broccoli with a baked sweet potato, a corn on the cob and some hummus, and while it might not sound like much, it was SO satisfying, in fact I’m thinking of printing out the above picture and sticking it on my fridge to remind me just how much I enjoy eating food without any fuss, or drama queen antics!

This was also delicious,cold the day after for lunch, and I’m also thinking that for a picnic, it would be perfect served up with some new potatoes also roasted the same way. Maybe some sour dough bread. Ooo and pearl cous cous.

Now I’m hungry, and I also completely lost track of my stage conceit, but you can’t say I’m not at least trying to bring my two loves of theatre and food together!

Let me know if you try this, or roasting any other veg in the same way. I’m thinking maybe some cauliflower would compliment it perfectly?

Live life & never underestimate the humble broccoli x

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morning monday… summer report card…

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Hey everyone, so it has been a while since I did any kind of goal orientated post, and what with it being the beginning of the summer holidays, and the nostalgia of the end of year school report, I thought it was as good a time as any to check in with you guys, and probably more importantly, with myself.

My resolution for this year, was to carry on trying to be the person I want to be. You know that perfect version of yourself that gets up early, a bundling ball of energy and takes on the day, with shiny hair, a big old smile, and this general aura of being calm while completely bossing it? Yeah. Her.

I didn’t set myself any specific goals with this, so the sub headings here, are the areas of my life that when I imagine the girl I want to be, these are her fundamentals. Does that make sense? Like, if I get these building blocks in tip top shape, then I’m stood on a pretty good foundation.

So without further ado, or poor confused metaphor’s here goes…

Health & fitness… Stephanie has come a long way and should carry on the good work…

Guys, I’m actually in pretty good shape. Like not perfect shape, and I’m definitely still soft around the edges, but generally speaking? I’m doing ok. Of course there is always room for improvement.

My running routine isn’t anywhere near as solid as I would like it to be, but when I do get my trainers on, my times and distances aren’t all that embarrassing. I’ve never been one for public sport or exercise. I was terrible at PE at school (apart from dance) and had one or two mean comments made about me that really stuck. Not to mention the fact that co-ordination just does not come naturally to me. So other than the odd zumba class (where everyone at least THINKS they look slamming) I’d always believed I truly didn’t enjoy exercise. But that has definitely changed. Running clears my mind, and lifts my mood like few other things can, and now I’m even thinking of signing up to a real public race. A 10k might not sound like a huge challenge, but up until a few months ago I was too embarrassed to even tell people I went running in case they asked me how fast or far I went.

Other than running, because I don’t drive, I get in a fair amount of walking, but I would like to start doing more exercise that focuses on other areas and not just cardio. I throw in the odd swim, but I really want to spend a little time thinking about my strength and toning up a little bit. Nearly every week I tell myself I’ll complete at least one online yoga class, and barely ever do. But if I want to be able to touch my toes, and carry my shopping up the stairs (not at the same time) then I need to do something about it! Not to mention the fact that I don’t want my fitness to take a nose dive when the weather turns and the days get shorter, and running around the park is just no longer a viable option. It may even be time to join a gym!

Diet wise, as regular readers will know I’ve stuck it out with veganism. Again, I’m not a perfect vegan but my attitude towards food, is now much more balanced. Even when I do indulge, it is never to the level that it was before, and this is a huge improvement. I’ve never had brilliant will power, but towards the end of last year, I’d gone beyond that and fallen into some seriously unhealthy eating patterns, which weren’t doing my body, my confidence, or my mind any good.

And that shift in attitude, is the biggest improvement I’ve seen in myself since the beginning of this year. I lost weight, but even though it wasn’t as much as I originally wanted, the confidence and perspective I gained, were double that (I spoke more about this here). What’s more is I’ve kept the weight off, and stayed at one weight for longer than I have done in years. I’m happy in my body, I still have days where I think ‘oh if only…’ but I don’t hate myself. I don’t punish myself. I know, that I am lucky to have a healthy body that can do all the things I want it to do, and looks pretty good while doing it.

I want to carry on improving in this area, and at the end of summer I intend on doing a month or so of very clean living, but I know longer see health and fitness as just an impossible goal to measure my failure by, it’s just the next step on the running track.

Career… Stephanie always works hard in class but her homework lacks care and attention…

This time last year, I was new to my day job, I was excited and eager to learn, but also nervous, and scared that I would fail. Today I can hardly believe that was only a year ago. I still learn something new every week, and I’m still finding the systems that work for me, but my confidence in myself, and the work that I’m doing has grown tenfold. In June I took on a big old project, and while it didn’t all go as smoothly as I would like, I realised that things rarely do. This job, may well end in February, which forces me to regularly reflect on what I’ve done and where I’m going. I don’t want this job to end, I still have so much to learn and I love where I work, and what I do, but the idea of going back on the job market isn’t entirely terrifying. In some ways I find it quite exciting. I don’t want to tie myself down to one area of theatre, or type of arts work, so looking for a new job, feels a bit like, looking for a new adventure. Of course if having to find a new job does become a reality, I can’t promise I will be quite as chipper about the situation but for now… I’m happy, I’m confident, I think I might even be quite successful.

I love my regular pay salary job, and I know I’m very lucky to be in a position where that job is in theatre, but I never intended to get that dream day job, and stop working on my own independent, writing, shows, workshops or theatre company, and in truth, that is exactly what has happened. I haven’t performed properly in over a year, and the new show I intended to work on, hasn’t got any further than an elaborate set of scribbles in my notebooks. I’ve found it much harder to stay motivated and driven in my independent work than I thought I would, but I guess that is natural. When you spend all day working on and in theatre, you don’t necessarily want to come home and do more! Some sort of burn out was inevitable, however, I’ve recently been rethinking this extra work, and what exactly I want my side hustle to be. In particular, working out how all the areas of my life and work sit beside one another. I won’t go into that too much here, but I’m working on a set of steps to take that should make my purpose a lot clearer, and hopefully see my blog, and my theatre work sit much closer to one another.

Blog… Stephanie needs to focus on the real task at hand…

Ok, I feel like I say ‘I don’t do this for the followers’ so often that it’s beginning to sound like I protest just a little bit too much. So I am going to be straight up and tell you, that at the beginning of the year I set myself the target of reaching 500 followers on bloglovin’ by December.

I’m not going to make that goal, and that’s generally a bit disheartening.

Here’s why: I don’t want a HUGE following because I want this to be my day job, or because I want to get cool stuff for free, or to feel like a bit of an internet celebrity, but because I want to know that what I am writing is RELEVANT to people.

At the very beginning of this year, I made myself an editorial calendar and I stuck to it. I took out some small scale advertising and I saw my numbers begin to climb slowly but surely. And then all that new year gusto wore off, life got in the way of spending three nights a week blogging, and I’ve actually seen followers, and my stats in general, fall.

For the past two months, I’ve been struggling with this a little bit. I saw this down turn in views and follows as proof that what I was putting out there wasn’t relevant. However, I’ve recently realised, that isn’t true. Those of you that do pop by this space of mine, keep coming back, I love that I have conversations and comments with the same group of people, because what that means, is that what I’m writing may not be relevant to the masses but it is to a handful of bloggers out there who if they lived down the street would probably be some of my best friends. Which HEY GUESS WHAT! Is EXACTLY what I really wanted this space to be about.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet a couple of you in real life, I email more of you, all the time on my lunch breaks, and I love that. Moving to Blackburn where I knew nobody meant that blogging and you guys, really were a life line. So I guess what I’m trying to say is THANK YOU! And if you pop by here regularly, and we haven’t spoken, please feel free to get in touch.

Now I’ve done the soppy bit, what action have I decided to take about all of this. Well, I’ve got rid of my editorial calendar, so that when I do post it is because I truly have something to say. And to those 4 people that unfollowed me on Bloglovin’ (yup, it was only 4 people and I nearly scrapped the whole thing) that’s cool, maybe you don’t want to invite me round for dinner each week, but lets still meet for the odd coffee every now and then?

Relationships… Stephanie get’s on well with her classmates, and her friends are a credit to her…

At the beginning of this year I did a fair bit of reading about mindfulness and happiness, and everything I read and watched talked about the importance of strong personal relationships. At the end of last year I think I’d started to shut down a bit, and even though I still spoke to my amazing friends, all the time, I was never really TALKING to them. This is something I decided to change at the beginning of this year. I put my irrational fear, that they didn’t really care to one side and just told them everything that had been going on with me. It will come as no surprise that I instantly felt a thousand times better.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year, being really honest with people, and making sure that those people that are really important to me, are regularly a part of my life. There isn’t as much face to face time as I would like, and there are a few friends a bit further away that I want to just call more often, but generally speaking, it’s quality over quantity with my friends. I have a handful of amazing friends, that I see a handful of amazing times a year.

Of course the other thing is that I have a boyfriend now. This was never a GOAL as such, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that as I worked on myself, and started to fix all those software glitches I’d been experiencing, I started to become more open to the possibility of meeting someone, and eventually did.Getting a boyfriend wasn’t a goal, it was a happy by product, and being in a relationship is already teaching me a lot about myself, and who I have become. I’d quite like to keep learning in this more one on one way please!

Growth… Overall Stephanie has made a lot of progress this year, with just a bit more hard work, she will be well on track for a good 2016…

Final category, I promise (well done if you’ve made it this far!), and this one is a bit of an amalgamation of two things:

1. Being a grown up
2. Personal growth.

So firstly, being a grown up, is probably one of the areas, I have the most work to do in. Especially when it comes to my finances, bills, and flat. I’ve started paying more attention to what I’m paying when, rather than letting the direct debit do it’s thing and hoping for the best. I’ve also set myself the challenge of paying off my credit card off by February (to coincide with the possible change of job and circumstances). This isn’t a huge figure, but so far summer has being seriously expensive, and when you combine that with one or two unexpected bills, it’s enough to make a very sensible mans daughter begin to panic a little bit!

The other thing is me rented flat. Which generally speaking is fine, but there are a couple of things I’ve been putting off calling the landlord about, and actually they need to be dealt with. Like the ceiling peeling in the bathroom, and the wardrobe that never stood up properly in the first place.

Finally on the grown up front. I NEED to learn to drive. I’ve never been behind the wheel of a car and for 3 months now I’ve said I will book a lesson. But then something else (that I’d rather spend money on) popped up and I put it off. No more excuses though, because my parents have paid a bulk of lessons for my birthday, and I have to get them booked by, well, today actually.

The second part of this category, is personal growth, which I guess makes for a pretty good conclusion to the end of this lengthy post, which essentially is entirely about how I’ve grown so far this year.

At this point of the year I think I’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting for becoming the person I want to be. I could still get up earlier, and I will always want a better morning routine (or any morning routine), I will always want to read and learn more. Write more, create more. But these are small tweaks I can make every day. Little steps like cutting down my screen time, and working on getting a night time routine, so that I’m awake enough to tackle a morning one. I’ve journalled much more this year than I’ve ever done before and found myself becoming much more interested in mindfulness and meditation. Which in turn has has made a positive shift in my attitude, something which I credit for making everything else I’ve spoken about in this post possible.

August is just around the corner, and writing this post has made me realise, is that what I really need to do, is to use the remainder of the year to keep up the good work, and polish off the edges, so that come 2016 I feel ready to go even further. In truth becoming the person you want to be, can’t be done in a year. It’s an ongoing project. I’m an ongoing project, and one, that in all self indulgent truthfulness, I really enjoy working on.

How does your summer report card read? This one is certainly better then my year 5 one which said I was a bossy little madame, and caused months of upset!

Live Life & keep working on it x

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going vegan… the vegan hangover…

Let me start this post by saying, I am in no way a ‘perfect’ vegan. As I’ve spoken about in the past I find the label ‘vegan’ itself problematic. I eat a mainly plant based diet, and I want to protect animals, and save a little bit of the world while I do it. However, sometimes I slip, sometimes I presume something is vegan friendly only to check the ingredients afterwards and find some unnecessary animal product included, and sometimes there is cake.

I see my relationship to food a little bit like I see my relationship to alcohol. I know some thing’s, like gin, aren’t good for me but every now and then I still indulge.

One thing I don’t indulge in anymore is cheese.

And I know this is where a lot of none vegans out there will have let out a gasp of pain and horror. Cheese is delicious, I know this. I never gave up cheese because I didn’t like it. I gave it up because I did some reading, and could no longer separate the cheese from where it came from. Don’t worry I’m not about to go into that.

However, I also read into meat, and where the ingredients in my beloved cake, and fish come from and yet I can still eat those, so why is cheese my one no go area?

Because physically, cheese, makes me feel dreadful.

One weekend a couple of months back I was caught out in a coffee shop. I had the shakes and needed to eat something solid pronto. It was late in the day and the only option they had that didn’t involve meat was a cheese toastie. I couldn’t get home so I ordered the toastie, and guiltily ate (and admittedly enjoyed) my first cheese binge in nearly 6 months. Later that day I was back home, in bed with crippling tummy pains. I told myself I’d been ill all day and this must be part of that. A week later I was out celebrating my dads birthday, and the veggie option I’d ordered arrived with a cheese topping. Not wanting to kick up a fuss, or have to explain again to my family why I’d changed my diet, so drastically, I again ate (and still enjoyed) my meal. Later that night. Crippling tummy pains again. I couldn’t deny it. It was the cheese.

When I first told people I was thinking about going vegan, they warned me this would happen that I would make myself intolerant to things, that just to be safe, I should eat cheese or drink milk every now and then. Something that originally made a little bit of sense to me. I didn’t want to go to a restaurant and find that I absolutely could not eat anything, not out of choice, but because my body would buckle over in pain. But the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

I haven’t made myself intolerant to cheese, over 24 years, I’d MADE myself tolerant to it, now my body has had a break it no longer what’s to put up with that, regardless of how delicious it is. And this is where I come back to my alcohol analogy.

You’re body isn’t meant to process alcohol, but it can, until you drink too much and you end up with a dreadful hangover. This is what happens to me and cheese. I can eat one slice and feel fine the next day, if I eat a whole toasties worth, well lets just say it isn’t pretty. I’ve never told somebody ‘oh I’ve got a hangover’ to be met with the response ‘you should drink more often, so that your tolerance is built up’  but with cheese or dairy it’s a different story.

I’m not trying to tell you, don’t eat cheese. And I’m not telling you to stop drinking. I still drink, often more than I should, and the only reason I don’t get the same vegan hangover from a cake as I do from cheese, is because I’m guilty of having kept up my ‘tolerance’ to it. What I’m trying to say, is that with all food, we should question it’s effects on us more, because we’re all clued up on the dangers of alcohol, and a bottle of wine comes with a health warning, but food doesn’t. Those little traffic light labels, are still gobbledygook to most of us, and to be honest the idea that one size fits all, doesn’t really work for me.

Like with you’re favourite beverage, you have to work out where your limit is, whilst also being aware, that just because one gin and tonic doesn’t give you a hangover that doesn’t make it ‘good for you.’

I never wanted to be the ‘fussy vegan’ visiting friends and saying point blank I don’t eat cheese, but that is what my body tells me to, and do you know what, once I explain actually I’m not being fussy, it makes me ill, nobody bats an eye lid. Much like when I tell people ‘I don’t do tequila.’

Live life & please drink/eat responsibly x