Thursday, 27 March 2014

Healthy Cookie Dough Recipe, Really

I'm currently training for the London marathon (3 weeks to go, gulp)! I like to think that marathon training is a period when you really can eat whatever you want without feeling an ounce of guilt. At times like this, I turn to cookie dough, my favourite sweet treat of all time. I learned the hard way that London doesn't seem to understand the concept of eating raw cookie dough, making it nearly impossible to find this sinfully delicious goodness on store shelves. I took matters into my own hands and tried to make various versions of this raw treat, but the tastiest recipe I discovered ended up being the healthiest one. You won't believe how much this health conscious cookie dough tastes like the real thing. I actually now prefer this version to the real deal. Here is what you will need to whip up this tasty delight:
Serving size: one pot of ridiculously healthy cookie dough 
Preparation time: 20 mins
1 can chick peas/garbanzo beans
1/2 cup almond butter
4 tablespoons of oats
4 tablespoons agave nectar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda  (aka bicarbonate of soda in UK)
1 cup dark chocolate chips 

Start by thoroughly rinsing then straining the can of chick peas, followed by placing them in a mixing bowl.
Now it's time to add 1/2 cup of almond butter to the base of your dough. It's not the most attractive looking condiment, but it tastes incredible and is so much healthier for you than peanut butter - your waistline will thank you!
I searched everywhere for baking soda in London and was starting to despair when I couldn't even find it in Whole Foods (my last/most expensive resort!). Little did I know bicarbonate of soda is exactly the same as baking soda and isn't too difficult to source. Once you find this kitchen staple, add 1/4 a teaspoon on top of your mixture.
Next up, pour a measured out 1/4 teaspoon of salt into the bowl.
Followed by a cup of dark chocolate chips (the good stuff!).
To add a bit of substance to your dough, pour 4 tablespoons of oats (of your choice) on top.
Then add 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract...
...followed by 4 tablespoons of agave nectar.
This is what your final mixture should look like before you begin mixing. Trust me, it will taste amazing at the end!
Grab a big spoon and thoroughly mix your healthy cookie dough until all the oats have soaked up the agave and vanilla. The entire mixture will start to turn a darker brown in colour.
This is what your finalised dough should look like - hope you're hungry!
Prepare yourself to take a bite out of something truly healthy and delicious - this cookie dough is oh so good and it lasts for ages, so you can keep it in a small container for up to 2 weeks if you only want a bite. I like to reward myself post training run with a big spoonful or three.
Hope you love this yummy recipe as much as I do - enjoy this sweet pick me up with friends, family, or all to yourself. If you've got a healthy recipe I need to try, then please tweet me and let me know - happy healthy grazing!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

London Spring/Summer 14' Fashion Week Looks To Embrace

Although I have never been to London fashion week, I seem to know an awful lot about it due to my addiction to Grazia magazine and fashionista blogs. Sad isn't it! I love this time of year when the craziness of London, Paris, and Milan fashion week is over and suddenly the latest trends for spring and summer are revealed. Londoners immediately start updating their wardrobe accordingly. I won't necessarily be trying out all these trends myself, but if you are truly fashion forward, this is what you should be incorporating into your look this season:

Colorblocking 
Colorblocking used to be all about "power clashing" super bright hues and prints together, but following fashion week it is now clear we should be implementing a more subdued and neutral version this spring - ie: not looking like a neon Rubik's Cube. 

Statement shoulder bags
The practical statement shoulder bag was one luxury accessory seen at all the London, Paris, and Milan fashion week shows. Ideal for transitioning from work to evening wear, this style is endlessly versatile. A hand-painted CHANEL or fiery red Mulberry for spring? Sign us up!

Sassy ankle boots & mules
Your feet will be relieved to hear that sensible flats are a footwear staple this spring. No need to put your power moccasins, metallic flats, monochrome brogues or suede loafers away any time soon! Dressed up ankle boots, chic leather mules, and open toed wedges in every colour imaginable (with chains, fringes, studs and more) go great with summer dresses. Shoe wear for spring is solved. 

Mixed textures hair
Just when you thought the early 90's Calvin Klein grunge look was done for good...say hello to mixed textures hair, the hottest new spring hair trend to try. To re-create this modern take on natural grunge, you will need to shellack the centrerpart of your hair using a strong finishing spray and blowdry the remaining hair for a crisp final look. A-listers like Beyonce and Kim Kartrashian have been seen trying out this new do' - I think I will leave it them!

Flora & Fauna
Owls have been trending in all shapes and forms in London for a while now, and it seems that we will be seeing much more of them along with other creatures of the garden following fashion week's poignant floral and fauna trend - thorns, flowers, branches and all. Feel free to embody the Garden of Eden from now on. 

Extra Large Coats
The fall/winter 13' trend for bold and enormous coats isn't going anywhere. Light oversized coats are staying put for cooler spring days in all types of statement colours and fabrics -bring on fur, leather, shearling and light wool! This fabulous sea foam Missoni coat, which strutted down the Milan fashion week catwalk last week, is on my lust list. 

Orange Lips
Just like the hit TV Show, Orange is the New Black, this vibrant colour will become a staple in our closet in no time. Orange is also the dominant high-impact hue we should be painting on our lips for the spring and summer months ahead. A quick dab on your puckers is a great way to add some sharp colour to a neutral look. 

What fashion trends are you currently embracing? Drop me a line here - I'm all ears!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Top 5 Spots For Breakfast In London

Every new noteworthy London restaurant undergoes an immediate rating and slating from the super critical British gourmet press the nanosecond doors are open to the public. There are countless dining out reviews for London's top dinner venues, but for some reason critics rarely rate breakfast menus, making it a bit more challenging to find the best places for brekkie around town. As a firm believer that perfectly prepared eggs, fresh smoothies, top notch toast and strong coffee are the kick-start we all need and deserve for a productive day, I took it upon myself to find the best breakfast joints in London. Yep, you heard that correctly, I have sourced the top breakfast spots for your eating pleasure. You're welcome! 
After three years of trying various breakfast venues in the capital, here are my 5 favourite spots for your first meal of the day in London:

Daylesford, Notting Hill
Located on Notting Hill's very attractive Westbourne Grove, Daylesford  is arguably one of the best places to enjoy an alfresco breakfast during London's summer months/rare sunny days. You will probably think you have entered a boutique version of Whole Foods when you first walk in, as there are organic veggies, packaged home-made chutneys, plants, and fresh produce displayed beautifully in the entrance of the farm shop and café. 
Daylesford's tasty produce is grown at their organic mega-farm in Gloucestershire. I dream of one day visiting their gorgeous Cotswold cottages along with the heavenly Hay Barn Spa... a girl can dream right? Anyway, back to the topic of breakfast at Daylesford: the poached eggs on freshly baked toasted bread with smoked salmon and hollandaise (£11.50) are absolute perfection on a plate.
I love this breakfast dish so much I order it every time, although I have been urged to try the home-made toasted granola or the bacon roll with brown sauce. Further reason to return and sample more items from this delicious organic menu!

Sketch, Piccadilly
Prepare yourself for an Alice in Wonderland like fantasy setting when you set foot in cooler than cool Sketch. There are three hip restaurants to choose from, but head to The Parlour Room between 8am and noon for a memorable psychedelic breakfast. Try one of Sketch's refreshing juices - Orchard's Kiss (apple, orange and basil) is my favourite. 9 Conduit Street (£11) is Sketch's version of a typical English breakfast, a must try for any foreign visitors! A hearty mixture of poached eggs, Cumberland sausages, black pudding (don't ask what's in it, just give it a whirl), tomato concassé, and portobello mushrooms, this dish will keep you fuelled for the busiest of days.
Sketch has been open for 11 years now, but their egg shaped Lady Gaga-esque loos will always amaze. If there is one public bathroom where it is acceptable to take a selfie, this has to be it.

Aubaine, Kensington
Aubaine is a French restaurant chain with eight charming restaurants across London that you can always rely on. Like most outstanding French cuisine, Aubaine's food is simple but meticulously prepared. I like to drop in for a strong macchiato and to admire Aubaine's stylish French rustic furniture. I wish I knew how to style foam with cinnamon like this:
My French friends will probably scold me for saying this, but I think Aubaine's pain au chocolat (£2.50), croissant aux amandes (£2.95) or pain aux raisins (£2.50) are some of the tastiest French pastries in London. This petit déjeuner is hard to beat!

The Wolseley, Mayfair
The Wolseley's grande dame styled high ceilings, dramatic chandeliers, marble pillars and black, cream and gold colouring are something out of the 1920's, yet this London flagship is only a decade old. Located conveniently in the heart of Mayfair with a breakfast menu TO DIE FOR, this is the spot to splurge on your first meal of the day. All diets must go on hold so you can properly treat yourself to the french toast or pancakes with blueberries (£9.95).
Save room for the Mixed Basket (£8.50): a delightful carb-filled selection of miniature croissants, pain au chocolat, pain sucré au beurre normand, cannelé bordelai and a tasty danish or two on the side. With so many tantalising options to choose from in a super chic setting, no wonder this restaurant is now a London institution.

I heard a lot of hype about The Riding House Café when it first opened, but I have to admit I loved it just as much as everyone said I would when I finally had a chance to visit with gal pal Megan. This modern day brasserie is filled with cosy leather chairs, stylish banquettes, and interesting taxidermy lights(!).
The Riding House Café has nine freshly squeezed juices available, so choose wisely! We decided the ABC Ginger (£4.20), a tantalising combination of apple, beetroot, carrot and ginger, was a great dose of vitamin C to set our morning off right.
Poached eggs on toast with avocado is the ideal every day breakfast in my book, and The Riding House Café does it oh so well! Why more restaurants in London don't offer this simple but healthy start to the day remains a mystery to me. Megan tried the Titchfield Muesli (£4) and we both left feeling pleasantly full and ready for the busy day ahead of us. I will definitely be back for more!

Hope this post inspires your breakfasts around London. If there's a place you love and you think I have to try then tweet me about it. I'm always open for new suggestions. Bon appétit!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Stuffed Aubergine Winter Warmer

February is the month when I want to eat everything yummy and warming in sight. It's still chilly and dark outside and warm beach days seem like a century away. All bikini-ready diets are on hold until spring and in the meantime, there are sooo many restaurants in London with the most delicious comfort food to tempt your tastebuds. If you are in the same boat as me then fear not, because I have discovered a fantastic new recipe that ticks all the boxes: it's scrumptious and filling, but won't do any damage to your waist line or bank account! I posted a picture of my latest stuffed aubergine creation on my Instagram last week, and when an old friend suggested I share this recipe on BLONDON, I knew what my next recipe post would be.
This recipe is super healthy, easy to prepare, great for when you're on a budget and will impress the tofurkey out of all your vegetarian friends! Without further ado, here is my step-by-step foolproof recipe for my stuffed aubergine winter warmer. 
Prep time: 15-20 mins; cooking time 20 mins; serves up to 4

 Ingredients you will need:
- 2 aubergines (aka 'eggplant' in the States)
- A handful of spring onions
- A handful of small tomatoes
- 1 cup butter beans
- A small block of goats cheese
- A handful of pitted olives
- A pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup of basil pesto
- Olive oil or substitute grapeseed oil if you want to be super healthy

Start by putting on your cutest apron and pre-heating your oven to 160°C/320°F. Then wash your aubergine and cut it in half lengthwise.
Using a sharp knife, carve out the inside perimeter of the aubergine. Pressing down firmly will make removing the middle of the aubergine easier. 
This is more or less the shape you are aiming for during this carving process. 
Slide the knife under the middle parts of the aubergine and cut out the area you have  just imprinted. This sounds much more technical than it really is. The middle base of the aubergine should come right out with ease!
Use a spoon to remove the excess bits and hollow out the middle portion of the aubergine as much as possible. Save the removed pieces of aubergine to cook later!
Your aubergines should now look like vegetable canoes - ahoy!
Warm a skillet or frying pan for the aubergines on medium-low heat. Using a small brush or your fingertips spread a little bit of olive oil or grapeseed oil around the edges of the aubergine. 
Put the aubergines on the skillet face down. Turn them over every three minutes or so to ensure they are grilled on both sides. 
Now it's time to make your stuffing. Thoroughly rinse the butter beans and put them into a mixing bowl.
Then add the handful of small tomatoes (chopped).
Wash the spring onions and finely chop them. Add to the mixing bowl. 
Then cut your olives in half and throw these on top.
Break 2/3 of your goats cheese into small pieces and add to your compilation. Cheese is an excellent source of calcium so the more the merrier really!
Add a pinch of sea salt followed by 1/2 cup basil pesto to the mixing bowl. 
Using a large spoon, mix all the ingredients thoroughly.
Take your grilled aubergines and lay them on a cooking tray covered with foil.
Brush a dash of olive oil onto the hollowed out area of the aubergines.
Fill the aubergines with as much stuffing as possible until they are almost overflowing. Try to use all the stuffing but if you have any left over, it makes a delicious sauce for a pasta.
Last but not least, add the remaining 1/3 of goats cheese (in pieces) to the top layer of the stuffing and put them in the oven.
Depending on your oven, your tasty goodness should be ready to go after 15-20 minutes. You will know they are done once the cheese is fully melted and the pesto sauce is bubbling a little bit.
Take it out of the oven and serve immediately.
I'm sure you will love this delicious warming dish. It is one of my favourites and your body will thank you for it. Who knew healthy and hearty cooking was so easy!