I love tomatoes!

It’s tomato time again at Sant Elia, and that means a freezer full of passata to take me through the winter and well into the Spring of 2018.

Tomatoes are so good for us, and very much part of The Mediterranean Diet. They are packed with beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, and are a high source of vitamin A ,C and Folic Acid, so I don’t want to waste any of these little gems.

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I’m now averaging a kilo plus of pickings every day, and that’s without the tomatoes I pick for serving with basil and mozzarella, or for dicing and adding to cooked passata with capers and delicious Sant Elia olive oil, I could go on and on, so many way many to serve tomatoes.

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I make several batches of passata every week until the weather cools, the sun is less intense and the ripening process slows.

Then comes the glut of green tomatoes, when I turn to chutney making, Uncle Harry’s recipe is my favorite, which I’ll share with you nearer the time.

Back to passata, it’s so easy to make. I freeze mine which makes it easier still… no jars to sterilize!

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In this batch I have approx.

  • 2kg of Tomatoes, roughly chopped, skin on, I really haven’t the time to skin and deseed them all.
  • 2-3 Onions, roughly chopped, red ones today!
  • 3-4 Carrots, roughly chopped.
  • Finally, a handful of Flat leaved parsley.

I usually add a couple of sticks of celery, not today though, as I haven’t got any.

tomatoes

Method

  • Cook in a large sauce pan UNCOVERED, and with no added water, this is important, tomatoes are very juicy and provide their own liquid, some of which needs to evaporate so that you get a rich thick sauce.
  • Cook for about an hour, until everything is soft and mushy.
  • Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly before using a hand blender to break down any large pieces of tomatoes.
  • I like a slightly chunky texture, but you could blend until it was really smooth.
  • Pour into containers and freeze.

Most children I know like pasta, and this is a great way of giving them some extra veg.

Before the end of the summer, I’ll make a batch of sauce adding the last of the red peppers, celery, carrots, maybe some aubergine, baby spinach leaves, anything that when it’s blended is undetectable! Not broccoli though as this stays a little ‘grainy’.

The freezed sauce is easily defrosted, and can be used in casseroles, curries etc. It also tastes better than the jars you buy in supermarkets, and has no added salt or preservatives.

It’s worth a try?

 

    

 

It’s been a tough week

This week has taken me right back to how and why I got into fitness, and it’s not a good feeling.

People often say to me, “you’re so calm”, “you’re so organised”, “you look so fit and healthy”. But, I’m just like everyone else and this week I’m crumbling inside.

I’m so tired, so fed up and needing some space.

It’s been a week of missing flights (due to bad planning), snacking on airport food and generally having a rubbish diet, also playing ‘catch-up’,has resulted in insufficient sleep, I could go on and on.

I could almost see this happening over the last two months. My exercise programme has almost disappeared due to a heavy workload and my weight increased due to too much yummy pasta!

I’m also a person who values personal space, if only for an hour a day. Away from everyone, just to get my thoughts organised, to sit and de-stress, or do something silly like cleaning out my sweater drawer whilst listening to my favourite music.

Without past experience, I could easily be going off to my GP requesting some medication to lift my mood, but I KNOW exactly what I should be doing, and this is my plan, in fact I’ve already started.

My ‘life saver’ is exercise.

My alarm is set for an earlier start to the day, before anyone else gets up. However tired or low I feel, I get up, feeling better already by just having some space!

I make up my jug of lemon infused water, and get motivated by telling myself how strong I am, and how I can still take on the world, I’ve just taken a little detour. It has worked before and it will work again, I have no doubts.

Then I hit the gym or go for a walk.

The results of exercise for me are phenomenal, the release of endorphins really do lift my spirits and make me feel good, and it’s time to myself.

Within a couple of weeks I know I’ll be back on track again.

Add to this my improved diet and it’s the strongest remedy ever.

Lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and protein, together with at least two litres of water daily, earlier nights will also help.

Alcohol is out, even a glass of prosecco, I want my body and mind back into the shape it was eight weeks ago.

I’m sure there will be be lots of Mums out there feeling stressed and fed up already with school holidays already upon us. If you’re one of them, perhaps by getting up earlier, having half an hour ahead of everyone else, may make all the difference to your day and your mind.

Time to go for an early morning walk, roping in some other Mums on the way. Who knows where it will lead you especially as you start feeling those lovely endorphins kicking in. 

If you are struggling or looking for some of those endorphins, find out more about personal training with me. I offer personal training in my own fully equipped gym or I can also provide online personal training plans.

Granny’s Welsh cakes live on!

There are so many Welsh cakes recipes, but I could never deviate from Granny’s recipe, as they are loved by all the family just the way they are.

Welsh cakes are cooked on a bakestone, of which I have two. The very best, my brother made for me years ago, it’s cast iron, very heavy but makes the most delicious Welsh cakes. The other I bought at a local cook’s shop, it’s made of a much lighter metal and is well travelled… so yet again was part of my check in allowance!

The recipe is easy, and yes, I have tried substituting the sugar with alternative sweeteners, it just doesn’t work, and as my health conscious children say, “it’s OK mum they’re homemade!”

Unfortunately you do need some kind of bakestone or flat cooking surface, I’ve tried using a flat frying pan, but that was a disaster.

Ingredients

  • 450 gm. Self Raising flour
  • 225 gm. Butter
  • 170 gm. Currants
  • 6 Tablespoons of Caster sugar
  • 2 Beaten Eggs

 

Method

  • Start by heating the bakestone over a low heat.
  • Rub the flour and butter together until they form fine breadcrumbs.
  • Gently fold in the sugar and currants.
  • Add the beaten eggs, and using a fork or your hand, gently make the mixture into a ball.
  • Roll out the mixture on a lightly floured board, to about 1cm thick or just slightly over, and using a medium sized cutter, cut out the Welsh cakes.
  • Cook on the bakestone for 2-3 minutes each side, the Welsh cake should feel firm but springy.
  • Cool on cooling rack.

This is the third batch I’ve made this week, and the heart shaped one is for Rafey (my grandson and number one Welsh cake fan).

 

 

 

Have you visited Nivea House?

If I have time when travelling I like to go into a large pharmacy or cosmetic store to see what quirky things are available.

Imagine my surprise whilst in Hamburg, when I was told that the store to visit was Nivea Haus!

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We’ve all heard of Nivea cream, many of our grandmothers having used it, and it’s also one of the more affordable skincare brands on the market.

NIVEA IN ALL SIZES

The store was packed with Nivea everywhere. The staff were so helpful and obviously very proud of the product they sell.

Nivea is now over 100 yrs old having been developed in Hamburg, where their laboratory still remains.

NIVEA TIN 1911

I loved the historical wall of tins and adverts, dating from 1911 to the present day. There was even a photo-booth where you could personalise your very own tin of cream!

Throughout the decades the company has developed numerous other innovative skin care products such as deodorants, sunscreens, and now a Anti-Age Professional Bioxilift range which can only be purchased at Nivea House or on-line.

I needed a night and decollete cream so thought I’d try the Bioxilift, especially as it was less than half the price of similar products in the UK. As I had bought two products I could have another for free, so I chose an eye cream.

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My only reservation is the amount of glycerin within the creams, which in my experience can cause the skin to look quite greasy, but we’ll see. 

MY NIVEA CARRIER BAG

Nivea is now sold in over 200 countries, so it must have something going for it! 

I’ll report back soon, perhaps I’ll become one of the millions using this iconic cream, in it’s instantly recognisable blue and white tin.

 

Five easy trends to take you through summer 2017

As we begin to get excited about summer holidays and warmer weather, here are 5 easy to wear trends to take you through the next few months in style.  All of these are adaptable to any body shape and are instant updates for summer wardrobes.

  1. Frills and Flounce – fabulous frills are staying around! We can all embrace the on trend feminine ruffles, but wear them in a way that suits you.  For example, if you have a larger bust, go for ruffles on sleeves or a skirt instead of the shoulder or chest area. I love J Crew for up to date basics in a great range of colours.
  2. Gingham – as you know, gingham is one of the prints of the season. Wear head to toe or as a nod to the trend with accessories. I’ve picked Hobbs for work or casual gingham styles.
  3. Floaty midi skirts – good for most body shapes, you may just need to add heel height and be careful how much they poof out at the waist! Jigsaw have some great skirts, and the one I’ve picked is top of my shopping list.
  4. The jumpsuit – when you find a jumpsuit style that works for you, they are so easy to wear. Admittedly it can sometimes be a challenge finding one that flatters on the top as well as the bottom – and then there is the other downside of taking the whole thing off to go to the loo! They are still everywhere in the shops – I love the simplicity of their navy Pure Collection jumpsuit and the floaty florals of their gorgeous little number from Anthropologie.
  5. Sandals/ Mules – you just can’t beat them for comfort and style when you are in the sun. Carvela have some fun, easy styles, perfect if you are exploring a beautiful walled Italian town or strolling out to the pool to relax after an early morning workout.

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What are your favourite styles for the summer? We would love to hear from you! Come on sunshine…

I can’t believe that by the time we are holding our retreat in September, we will be focusing on transitioning into Autumn.  Lets make sure that we embrace these summer trends while we can!

*Blog post by Chloe Brasier, Sant Elia in-house stylist 

My scariest leg press ever

I felt really grumpy and de-motivated this morning, and for no obvious reason.

I practised the power of positive thoughts, that didn’t work, my ‘chimp’ got in the way, so I was on a downer. But I knew what I had to do, get out and exercise.

I thought of doing a body weight session in the garden, but anything would have distracted me, so I decided to go to the gym.

I love finding new gyms whenever I travel, and deliberately look for smaller venues with basic equipment and free weights. Personally, I find the members of this type of gym friendly and extremely helpful, despite many of them lifting weights heavier than I am!

I arrived and immediately my mood started to lift.

There was a piece of equipment, the Vertical Leg Press, in this particular gym, that I hadn’t used before. Yes, I’m used to the Vertical Press, but not one that was as low to the floor and as ancient as this one!

I’ve avoided it for weeks, choosing the Horizontal Press, it made me shiver every time I looked at it, is it safe, what if the plate falls on me, how does it work?

It was time to leave my comfort zone and go for it.

This was only a little step out of my comfort zone, but I was a tad scared and apprehensive, we are all creatures of comfort and can hold back on things that challenge us.

As children we are natural risk takers. But as we get older and learn to fear failure, we tend to hold ourselves back and attempt fewer things, with the result that our comfort zones tend to shrink.

A study by The University of Texas, found that learning new and demanding life skills, can help us stay mentally sharp as we get older, and that’s no bad thing.

So, I found someone to reassure me with how the machine worked.

When I’d used the Vertical Press in other gyms, I was confident thinking I could use the same weight with this machine, despite my helpful gym member giving me a quizzical look and stating the weight I had chosen was heavier than he used…mmm, ah, no problem!!!!  Until, the weights did not move! So we reduced them to the amount he uses, perfect, heavy but safe and a great leg workout.

I must add here, in my opinion, the Vertical Leg Press is not for beginners, so stay safe with the Horizontal Press, until more experienced.

I’d conquered my fear, laughed at my failure and learned by my experience.

I continued with my workout, and with endorphins flowing felt great. For me, exercise really is the answer to a healthy mind and body.

Join us on the Sant Elia Retreat in September, it can work for you too.

My four minute early morning makeover

Yes, ‘age is, just a number’, but I personally think there are some things that we have to adjust slightly as we age.

My most obvious change has been in my makeup.

I loved wearing heavy black eyes, with perfect liner…mmm, that’s definitely not the case now!

For me ‘less is best’, especially when it comes to wearing skin foundation and even eyeshadow.

When I feel my skin looks particularly dull in mid winter though, I’ll mix a little of Clarins, Delicious Self Tanning Cream with some moisturizer, and apply it to my face and neck, giving a healthy glow.

It also have my eyelashes tinted, which just means, less mascara!

I wear a serum and Heliocare Factor 50 everyday of the year, it works well for me both in the UK and Italy.

I have very little time in the morning, and have got my Early Morning Look down to 4 minutes or less, I thought I’d share it with you as it’s a stress free look!!

Pixi 24K Eye Elixir.

I don’t know about you, but my eyes often feel quite puffy in the morning. This is a lovely non sticky light serum, and the application is via a metal roller ball which feels so soothing as you apply it. I actually bought it from Marks and Spencers, I’m so pleased with it I may try some other Pixi products.

WONDER GLOW, by Charlotte Tilbury.

It can be used under or over foundation, or, as I use it, on its own. It feels extremely light and gives the skin a dewy, no makeup look.

Yves Saint Laurent, TOUCHE ECLAT, Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t, but it’s always there. It’s a highlighter, concealer, and can be used for contouring, which I will learn one day, when I have more time!

I occasionally use it on my eyelids instead of a light eyeshadow, it gives a great natural effect.

ROCK ‘N’ KOHL EYE PENCIL, by Charlotte Tilbury, It’s one of the best pencils I’ve used, and the nearest I get to the ‘black eyed’ look of my youth!

I don’t always use it, depends on what the day has in store, but if I do, it’s a very light application to the outer aspect of my inner lower lid.

EYELASH CURLER, by Bobbi Brown A ‘must have’ for me, but it doesn’t have to be Bobbi Brown, you can get cheaper, but it’s essential that the pad that comes into contact with the lash is soft and can be changed after extensive use.

Using an eyelash curler really does give eyes a more open look.

MASCARA, I opt for FULL FAT LASHES by Charlotte Tilbury, I like because it’s easy to use, no clumping or flaking and covers my lashes easily with the minimum amount of mascara.

Finally, DIOR ADDICT LIP MAXIMIZER, I wear more lip glosses now and love this product. although it’s really a treatment.

It has a lovely minty flavour, causing your lips to tingle when applied, it’s a clear gloss but not at all sticky.

I’m then ready to start my day.
I’d love to hear your quick tips for an Early Morning Look, as well as your best Early Morning product…there must be loads of ideas out there.