Tag Archives: travel

Bake: Granola Bars

granola bars

I’m off on a little road trip for work soon, this will involve a trade show and a few nights in a hotel. All very exciting stuff apart from the fact I will be away from my kitchen for 3 days, three whole days! Whilst most would relish the prospect of not having to cook for 3 days the reality has sent me into a bit of a panic.

Cooking is one of my greatest pleasures, I cook every day. It’s my way to relax and unwind but mainly I’m a big fan of knowing what goes into my food, it’s important to me to know the origin of the ingredients going into what I eat and indeed that there are no unnecessary ingredients included, preservatives, stabilisers and what have you. life is busy, and whilst it’s not always possible to know exactly whats going into your food and it’s not always convenient to make food from scratch I do, where possible, try and champion homemade and try to source ingredients for my kitchen that are local, british or of fair trade origin, and above all, healthy. I bake my own bread, I buy my meat from the butchers and vegetables from the market and try to spend as little money as I can in supermarkets.

So, what to do? The outlook is grim and i’m facing the unnerving reality of fast food for three days. My colleagues, who know my pack lunch habits and cheese obsession have assured me this is not the sort of trade fair where there will be a hall of fine cheeses to sample (those are the best sort of trade fairs, right?!) How will I cope without a slice of homemade bread and a selection of fine cheeses at lunchtime? I had to take action.

This morning I set about baking myself a batch of granola bars so if i’m really in trouble I can reach for the comforts of home cooking direct from my own kitchen. C has also very kindly bought me some apples to take on my journey. I shall also be preparing some cheesy nibbles to take. I’m feeling better prepared now, yet still apprehensive. Seriously, no cheese?

granola bar ingredients

To make granola bars you will need:

  • an 18cm round cake tin lined with baking parchment
  • 100ml coconut oil
  • 100ml agave nectar or honey
  • 50g almond or peanut butter
  • 150g oats
  • 50g chopped pecan nuts
  • 50g mixed seeds-I used pumpkin and sunflower
  • 50g dried fruit of your choice, sour cherries or cranberries are mine

This recipe makes really delicious gooey, chewy granola bars, be sure not to bake them too long so they don’t dry out. A note on coconut oil, make sure you buy cold pressed extra virgin for maximum ‘superfood’ effect. The flavour is strong and can overpower, so for those who don’t like coconut butter or oil can be used instead.

Pre-heat the oven to 145°C Weigh all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and set aside. Gently heat the agave, coconut oil and nut butter together in a pan until they are all melted, then pour the melted oil, agave and butter over the dry ingredients and mix all together to combine. Place the ingredients into the prepared tin. Use the back of a spoon to press the mix down so it’s nice and compact. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely, (don’t try to cut it when warm as it will crumble) Once completely cool cut into 6-8 portions. Store the bars in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Perfect for Breakfast on the go.

speedy breakfast granola bars

Further reading for the travelling cook:

B’s guide to eating healthy on the road

Miriam nice fellow blogger and author of cooking without a kitchen

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VISIT: Copenhagen – Part One

Last September I spent an amazing couple of weeks in South Africa with my mum – and we had so much fun (and earned so many flight points) that we figured this holidaying together thing was worth making an annual tradition

So a few weeks ago we headed to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, arriving late Tuesday afternoon and leaving early Friday afternoon

We rented a beautiful apartment in the upmarket town of Hellerup, just a short train/bus journey outside the city centre and close to the beach

I love finding travel recommentations from other bloggers, so always aim to pass on my own experiences in the hope I can in some way return the favour

Here’s a taster of our holiday, in brief…

TUESDAY – evening

Pizza and pasta Park in Hellerup

I love that my mum is the kind of person who is more than happy to shun a posh restaurant to eat pizza on a park bench

And what a pizza – and dish of stuffed pasta – it was!

It was Tripadvisor reviews which led us to Franco Delicatezze – and a mixture of indecision and hunger which led us to order so much food

Eaten in a nearby park, where this couple lying by the pond (photo above) seemed to have moved their duvet from their bed to the grass

WEDNESDAY – morning

Danish pastries and coffee Nyhavn Nyhavn

Our full first day started with a breakfast of muesli and fruit at the apartment, before making our way into the city

After buying open top bus tickets for the day, we found ourselves with 20 minutes to kill and decided this was best spent sampling our first Danish pastries in the sunshine – who knew the coffee would also come with biscuits!

We then hopped across to Nyhavn – a colourful harbourside which was once home to Hans Christian Andersen, but now is a great place to eat, shop and stroll

Kastellet Kastellet The Little Mermaid

Next we took a short bus trip to the edge of what we thought was just a public park, but turned out to be the Kastellet – a fortress in a star shape

It now contains military barracks and offices but is open to the public – I loved the symmetry in some of the buildings

And then we wandered on to Copenhagen’s most famous landmark, The Little Mermaid

She was easy to find – we just followed the trail of other tourists!

WEDNESDAY – afternoon

Lunch at SMK SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark

Another quick hop on/off the tourist bus and we arrived outside the National Gallery of Denmark (aka SMK)

Before taking in just a small proportion of the country’s largest art gallery, we were in need of nourishment so sat down for a smoked ham, fennel and chutney sandwich in the cafe

I was far too excited about pouring my mineral water from a carton rather than a bottle – it’s the little things that please

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It really was a stunning day and I loved how relaxed people outside the museum seemed – sipping juices and dangling their feet in the pool outside

We were tempted to join in, but instead headed to the beautiful gardens across the road, which surround Rosenborg Castle

The castle is open to visitors and we took a tour of the wonderfully preserved rooms – our favourite being one full of mirrors, which created an unusual optical illusion – and saw some of the crown jewels

WEDNESDAY – evening

Panto at Tivoli Tivoli by night

Our final destination for the day was somewhere we’d probably been looking forward to visiting the most – Tivoli Gardens

The second oldest amusement park in the world, it’s said to have inspired Disneyland

Arriving while it was still light, we wandered round watching (rather than riding!) the varied mix of rollercoasters and spinning contraptions, before settling down to watch a panto-ballet show on the beautiful peacock stage

After a tasty al fresco dinner at Restaurant Groften, we sought out a home-made icecream cafe and wandered round the park once again, now transformed by thousands of colourful lights

Charming and magical – it’s a must visit

Standby for part two of our Copenhagen adventures… but until then, I’d love to know about your experiences of the city

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Eat: Healthy on the road

Lunch from Iydea, Brighton

For the past few months I’ve been travelling pretty heavily for work around the UK

In fact, over the past few weeks in particular I’ve spent more time in hotels than in my own bed!

Constantly being on the road is a standard behaviour for many people, but it’s a new to me – so I thought it might be useful to pass on a few tips I’ve learnt along the way… starting with food

I’m pretty health conscious at home – I avoid processed food, buy local and organic foods where I can, monitor the amount of sugar and bad fats in my diet, try to eat mainly whole foods…

I’m no saint – I find it hard to turn down ice-cream or homemade cakes, but I was worried about what it would mean to not be able to have so much control over my diet and cook for myself

** Disclaimer – I’m not a nutritionist – feel free to disagree with my choices! **

Toast for breakfast

BREAKFAST

I love breakfast – it’s probably my favourite meal of the day – quite often once the thought of it pops into my head, I just have to get out of bed and put the kettle on

This means it’s a particularly dangerous time for me to overeat, when every day I’m now faced with multiple options in the form of a buffet table and/or delicious sounding menu

I’m not a massive fan of fried food or eating meat in the morning, so at least I largely duck the eternal pull of the Full English

But I still have had to reign myself in, and these are some of the “rules” and tips I’ve been living by…

  • Avoid the bread, unless freshly baked on site (it will only be the rubbishy stuff)
  • Check if the eggs are free range, ask for them to be freshly poached, boiled or scrambled
  • Ask if they do porridge (they usually do, even if not on the menu) – ask for it to be made with half milk/half water
  • Read the cereal packets and yoghurt tubs – you’ll be surprised by how much added sugar there is
  • Fresh fruit is good (especially if you can nick some for a mid-morning snack!)
  • Ask for still water, rather than sugary juice
  • Monitor portion sizes – avoid ‘eyes bigger than stomach’
  • If you’re staying at a posh hotel with an amazing menu, this is the time to go wild and have the flaky pain au chocolat or smoked salmon and scrambled egg!
  • If you’re staying at a budget hotel with a very processed buffet, don’t be scared to sneak in your own food (and just use their milk) No one will notice!

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DINNER

I’ve got no problems with eating alone – I’m quite happy to take a book along to a restaurant with me and just get on with my meal

  • TripAdvisor is your friend – it’s such a great app to have on your phone to search nearby restaurants and check out the reviews
  • Try to eat at independent restaurants where you’ll get more of an experience and feel for the place
  • But don’t feel bad about going back to trusted chains – sometimes it’s easier to know what you’re getting
  • If you are going to a chain, check out the nutritional info on their website to work out some of the healthier options
  • Be demanding again! Don’t want much dressing on your salad? Ask for it on the side

Having said that, most of the time I choose to eat my evening meals in the hotel – getting a selection of food from a nearby supermarket and having a mini picnic in my room

(Sometimes I’m just forced to ear in my hire car, on my knee – see photo above from a service station on the A1 earlier this week!)

Usually this is because I’ve had a long day of work and just want to relax in my own space

I’ve heard about people doing all kinds of crazy things with hotel kettles and producing meals, but I tend to stick to cold stuff…

  • Use Google Maps to search for nearby supermarkets (I have to say Waitrose and M&S in particular are my favourites!)
  • If, like me, you have an expenses budget, don’t feel you have to spend ALL of it – avoid buying more than you really need to eat
  • Check packaging – how processed is the sandwich you’re about to buy? Sometimes it’s healthier (and cheaper) to buy the bread, filling and a side salad separately
  • Whenever you see free plastic cutlery, take two sets – always handy on the road! (Eating with proper plate, knife and fork has become a bit of a luxury for me)
  • As in general life, I try to stick to largely veggie food in the week – and I often find searching for local veggie and vegan restaurants turns up some good options (Brighton was amazing for this – you have to visit Iydea!)

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GENERAL TIPS

  • It’s easy to think, ‘I’m away from home so I definitely deserve to eat a big bar of chocolate in  my hotel room… every night’
  • Try to avoid the tempting hotel freebies – instead of eating the free biscuits, I usually take them home with me – I’ve not had to buy a new packet for ages
  • Not a fan of UHT milk? Ask the hotel bar or reception for a little jug of fresh – much nicer!
  • Following on from this, one key thing I’ve learnt when staying in hotels – is don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want, they’ll probably be able to accommodate!
  • When your actually travelling make sure you take a big bottle of water with you, plus some healthy snacks – bananas and nuts are good, if you have time cut up some carrots
  • Know someone in the place you’re visiting? Drop them a message in advance. I’ve arranged breakfast, lunch and dinner with several friends and former colleagues during my travels – much more fun than a table for one, especially if they can show you the sights!

Do you travel for work? What tips would you add for eating on the road?

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Visit: Brussels (on the cheap)

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In the last couple of years loads of my friends seem to have visited Belgium and returned with very positive reviews  – including E, who posted lots of lovely photos from her trip last March

As usual, D and me were on a budget trip (see Paris and Amsterdam) – but, also as usual, we still had a brilliant time

So I thought I’d share some of the things we got up to…

Getting there

Eurostar tracks in Brussels

We were lucky to grab some cheap tickets in the Eurostar sale a few months ago – always something to look out for (I was even luckier as D paid for both of us as my Christmas present!)

Train is probably my favourite way to travel on the whole – and I find it amazing how quickly the time goes by when reading the paper, listening to podcasts and munching on almonds

It took little over two hours to travel from St Pancras in London, to Brussels Midi station

Staying there

We used our favourite website, AirBnB to book a room in a beautiful apartment owned by a lovely couple who lived close to the city centre

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For £40 a night we had a comfortable bed, use of a kitchen and access to lots of local knowledge – in a much nicer environment than a faceless hotel

Eating there

The benefit of being able to use a kitchen meant we cut back lots on the cost of food (a technique we use a lot when travelling about)

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Each day we ate breakfast at the house, then made up sandwiches of cheese and ham, packed up with bananas, nuts and a big bottle of water for the day – and on two of the evenings we made pasta for dinner

This didn’t mean we missed out though – we still enjoyed a great meal out at a great Ethiopian restaurant, Kokob (recommended to us by a lovely couple who helped us with directions) and stopped off plenty of times for hot drinks and sweet treats

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There’s literally chocolate shops lining every street you walk down – and we discovered the shop assistants seem perfectly happy to just serve you up a couple of chocolates, rather than a huge box (which is good news when single chocolates generally cost around 1 euro each!)

What to see

Now I have to admit, we didn’t really take full advantage of the array of museums on offer in Brussels – this was partly due to money, partly due to the weather and partly to due with our interests not entirely matching up with what the museums offered

However we did make it to the Musical Instruments Museum (or the MIM) – a beautiful building teeming with all kinds of wonderful creations from all around the world

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Each visitor to the museum is given a little hand held device with earphones which activates every time you walk towards a display cabinet and plays an example of the instruments in action – very clever!

It’s also worth going into the museum just to sit in the top floor cafe with a hot chocolate – a really lovely building with views over the city

We also spent a little while at the Parliamentarium – it doesn’t involve any stargazing but is a free museum attached to the European parliament buildings, which walks you through some of the EU’s history

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And of course we had to see the dramatic Grand Place (including the town hall with its unsymmetrical design) and the Manneken Pis (the little statue of a fella peeing into a pool – I was more amused by the graffiti besides him, which looks like the work of French artist Invader)

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But most of our time was spent wandering the streets – looking up at the architecture, spotting TinTin graffiti, people watching, browsing vintage and design shops…

What to buy

And while we’re on the subject of shopping… one of the highlights of our trip was spending time at a Sunday flea market – there was so much to see!

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From boxes of bric-and-brac priced at 1 euro, to oil paintings, film cameras and old letters – it was almost overwhelming!

I was also delighted on our final day to happen across an organic supermarket – filled with fresh fruit and veg, crusty bread and huge barrels of nuts, cereals, rice and dried fruit to scoop up into paper bags – I wish there was one in Leicester!

For once we didn’t come away with any vinyl, although we did happen across a couple of record shops – and then remembered we were on a budget!

Some tips:

  • People speak a mixture of French and Flemish, and information tends to be printed in both – people tend to be very good at English too
  • Always check ticket prices – we thought our days of discount tickets were over, but it’s only 2 euros to get into the MIM if you’re 26 and under
  • You can take buses, trams or the metro – but we found the city was easy to walk
  • It’s legal to drink alcohol in the streets in Belgium, should you want to!
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Day 22: Leaving on a jet plane

We can’t believe we’ve made it to day 22 of the Blog Every Day in November challenge – we hope you’re enjoying it as much as us!

For today’s topic we thought we’d share a few of our favourite holiday snaps with you – whether they’re beautiful snaps, or just remind us of a great moment…

From B’s travels…

I’ve already shared a couple of my favourite travel photos in a previous post, so here’s a few new ones from the archive…

Brooklyn Bridge

New York, USA – March 2012: I have so many photos from New York that I love – it’s such a photogenic city – but I’ll always remember walking back into Manhattan over Brooklyn Bridge as the sunset and the city’s lights came out

Aberdyfi / Aberdovey

Aberdyfi, Wales – April, 2011: You might not be a feet fan, but I love this photo as it takes me right back to that super sunny (April!) afternoon when I drove from Leicestershire to Wales and found my friends on the beach – it kicked off a really fun few days away

Algonquin National Park

Algonquin National Park, Canada – March 2013: This is the path we followed through the woods on foot for 2.5km, carrying our overnight bags to the eco-lodge – the snow made it hard work, but also incredibly beautiful

From E’s travels…

sagrada familia

Barcelona 2011 La Sagrada familia – still in construction

morocco

Morocco, 2012 Agadir

cromer

Cromer 2013 for my 30th Birthday, spot the photo bomb!

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