Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Plum Snacks for The Bertster!


We were recently sent two boxes of new Little Plum Organic Nibbly Wafers to review from the organic baby food specialists Plum

They come in two flavours - Spinach, Apple & Kale, and Pumpkin & Banana. The flavours are lovely - they are mild but definitely prevalent…not too strong, but strong enough that you can taste them. I'm saying this from experience, as I, of course, tried some as well as Bert. 

They are similar in texture to adult Crackerbreads, if you've ever tried them - and Bert absolutely loved them…he's nearly munched through both boxes!

 Each box contains six individually wrapped portions (3 wafers per portion) which makes them such a handy snack to pop in your baby bag for your little one when you're out and about. 

They are suitable for babies from 6 months +.

individually wrapped and ready for the baby bag! 

Bert found them really easy to hold, and the best thing about them is that although they dissolve in baby's mouth really easily they don't disintegrate in his hand quickly, so he manages to eat the whole wafer, and not drop large pieces on the floor like he does with other similar snacks on the market which crumble very quickly.

Here's my wee man tucking in to his new wafters….

out and about in a restaurant chomping away on his yummy wafters!

these are great mum! 

and here's Bert enjoying them at home in his high chair at lunch time

my little wafter muncher! 

He seemed to enjoy both flavours, and they will now definitely be something I'll be purchasing regularly from now on. 

They usually retail at £2.49 per box, but are currently on offer in Tesco for £1.99 per box, so go and stock up now! 

According to a recent article in the Daily Mail online even Prince George himself enjoys Plum's organic baby food! So, if it's good enough for Prince George then it's good enough for The Bertster! 

Thanks Plum! 

Disclaimer: We were sent two boxes of the Plum wafers for the purpose of this review, but as always all views and photographs are my own. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Body Composition Testing & Weight Loss Update

It's now been 7 months since I began shifting my baby weight and I'm pleased to report that I'm now 3 stones and 12 lbs lighter than I was when Bert arrived. I've shifted all my baby weight, and more - and am now the lightest I've been since I was teenager. I feel really fired up, excited and in control of my eating/exercise life for the first time ever. I have realised that I can eat ALL of the foods I love, as long as I eat them in moderation, and exercise to compensate. The balancing act isn't always easy to do/get right, and I still have hungry days, treat days, and days when I'm over my calories; but mostly I'm balancing well and seeing great results. 

Part of this move towards a healthy weight and a healthy attitude to food and exercise has also been about understanding the science of our bodies: how they work, and how science plays a huge role in successful weight loss. 

When I was at my biggest, I didn't want to understand the science: I didn't want to know the numbers - I was ashamed of how high they would be, and that knowing the scale of what those numbers represented would frighten me back to binge eating and burying my head in the sand. 

Now I'm a lot lighter, and much healthier than I was, I decided it was time to face the music. And I booked myself, my cousin Vicky and my best friend Liz into The Body Hub at The University of Bedfordshire for body composition analysis. This testing would tell me:

-my EXACT weight
-my body fat percentage
-my EXACT BMI
-my EXACT BMR
-how much muscle I have in my body and where
-my EXACT body water  

and hopefully provide me with some helpful advice for how to improve these numbers, and where I sit on the scale in terms of normal - obese. 

The testing was done by the BOD POD which is an Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) that uses whole-body densitometry to determine body composition (fat vs. lean). Similar in principle to underwater weighing, the BOD POD measures body mass (weight) using a very precise scale, and volume by sitting inside the BOD POD. Body density can then be calculated:

Density = Mass/Volume

Once the overall density of the body is determined, the relative proportions of body fat and lean body mass are calculated. 

The BOD POD looks basically like a large egg that you sit inside (in your swimwear & a swimming hat) for a few minutes while the testing is done. 


The BOD POD

Here we are just before the testing, in our robes, pretending we're at a spa rather than at the university getting our body fat percentage tested…

Me and Lovely Liz

Me and my cousin Vicky 

And here I am in my VERY fetching swimming hat - I hadn't worn one of these since I was about 7 years old, I guessed my readers would appreciate a laugh - so here you go…

LOL! 

And so we all took it in turns to sit inside the pod, and the testing began.

After the BOD POD test we used state-of-the-art Tanita Body Composition scales to get a quick but detailed reading of our overall body composition to take away with us that day, and then awaited our BOD POD reports via email a week later. 

The BOD POD's readings are as exact as you are going to get, the pods are used throughout the sporting and athletics world, and are the most trusted method of body composition analysis. So, although the Tanita scales are good (they work by sending a tiny current through your body and measuring how quickly the current travels through your body to determine which bits are fat and which are muscle), the data they provide isn't quite as accurate and reliable. It was handy however to get a general overview of our composition on the day.

It's now two weeks since I had the testing, and I've received my data report, which I'm now ready to share with my readers. 

(Note: I would NEVER have shared this information when I was at my biggest, I was lacking in confidence, and thought if I hid the numbers no one would work out how over weight and unhealthy I was. Silly me. What I've now realised is that you shouldn't be afraid of knowing this data, you should use it as a tool for improvement, for measuring your achievements and for truly understanding your body and what it is made up of.)

My BOD POD Body Composition Results

HEIGHT: 165.7 cm tall 
WEIGHT: 186 lbs (13 stone 4 lbs)
LEAN MASS: 107 lbs (7 stone 9 lbs)
FAT MASS: 79.5 lbs (5 stone 9.5 lbs)
FAT PERCENTAGE: 42.6%
BMI (Body Mass Index): 30.8
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): 1642 kcal (this means that my body uses 1642 calories a day to function at its lowest level i.e in a coma)

Here are the normative values for percent body fat and body mass index:


Percent Body Fat (%)
Body Mass Index
Lean
Less than 17
Less than 18.5
Healthy
17 - 28
18.5 - 24.9
Moderately Overweight
28 - 33
25.0 - 29.9
Overweight
Greater than 33
Greater than 30.0

Knowing that I still have 2 stone 4 lbs to lose until I reach my 11 stone target, it was obvious to me that I would still be classed as 'overweight', and that I have a long way to go yet. But, I was surprised to finally be out of the 'morbidly obese' category for BMI, and I'm now only 0.8 away from being 'moderately overweight' which for me is a huge achievement! My body fat percentage is high, as expected, and is something I'm now determined to lower. 

What I find really interesting about body fat percentage is that you can't know that number just by standing on a scale - a moderate sized person who classes themselves as a normal weight may in fact still have quite a high body fat percentage, and on the other hand, someone who is classed as 'overweight' because they are heavy may have a low body fat percentage and lots of muscle (which weighs more than fat).

My priority over the next 3 months is to concentrate on fat burning, and reduce my fat percentage and weight. Eventually I will also concentrate on building lean mass (muscle) with incorporating some resistance exercise into my routine. Increased lean mass will increase my basal metabolic rate (BMR), this is the energy the body requires at rest, so as your lean mass increases your resting metabolism will increase and therefore aid fat loss! Science is WONDERFUL



The advice in my BOD POD report tells me that the absolute best way to burn fat is by doing 45-90 minutes brisk walking 5 times a week - I was so pleased to read this, as this is what I've been doing since having Bert, as is the only exercise I honestly enjoy enough to do regularly. The next challenge for me is to find resistance exercise I can a) manage with my 3 slipped discs, and b) enjoy enough to do regularly. 

I feel empowered by knowing my personal results, and I'm excited about returning in 3 months time for a repeat test to see what difference I have made.

MY CURRENT DIET/EXERCISE REGIME

I'm still using the My Fitness Pal app on my phone to count all of my calories- even on 'treat days' when I know I will eat over my calorie goal, I still count all my calories so that I know exactly how 'bad' my day has been, and what calories I need to make up later in the week to ensure I still make a loss. 

My daily calorie goal is now at the very lowest you are recommended to eat each day at 1210 calories. I exercise on top of this - sometimes I bank these calories (to make a bigger loss that week) and sometimes I eat the excess calories on days when 1210 kcal just doesn't seem like enough. Either way, I try hard to ensure my net calories are 1210 exactly. 

I try to get out for long brisk walks every day - I will maybe have one or two rest days a week where I will either do a shorter walk of about half an hour, or no walking at all. 

This week I'm setting myself a new challenge to use our cross trainer for 30 mins at a time, 4 times (monday-thursday). I am desperate to find lower impact exercise that I find as easy to incorporate into my daily routine as I do walking - the lower the impact for me the better, as my 3 slipped discs are causing me lots of pain on a daily basis and the constant pavement pounding isn't helping at all. I'm hoping adding the cross trainer in, and slightly reducing the amount of walking will help me to cope with the back pain.

CLEAN EATING

You've probably heard the term 'clean eating' as it's being brandished around left, right and centre at the moment. It seems to be a very fashionable term. Basically, it's a way of eating that means you avoid ALL processed foods and instead enjoy a diet of lean meats, fishes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. If it grew, or was once alive then you can eat it, if it's been processed then you can't. 

In theory it all sounds great, but in practise I know I would find this incredibly difficult to stick to 100% of the time. Instead, I've vowed to try to 'think clean' as much of the time as I can manage. I've scoured the internet for 'clean eating' inspiration and recipes, and will be testing some of these out over the next few weeks (blog posts to follow). I have also decided to try having 2 'bread free' days each week - bread is my nemesis  and I food I would find impossible to cut out completely. I have switched to only brown bread over the past 7 months (having an occasional treat of white bread), but now, two days a week I will have no bread at all. I'll let you know how I get on. 

I can't be virtuous 100% of the time, but I will, and have been, making a much more conscious effort to eat cleaner foods, and prepare cleaner meals.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

So, onwards and upwards - my body composition may not be amazing, but it's certainly a hell of a lot healthier than it was 7 months ago when I was 3 stone 12 lbs heavier. I know exactly what I need to do to improve my body fat %, BMI, and overall weight and I'm excited to see what I can achieve in the next 3 months. 

I'll update you again after my next BOD POD visit!

Do you struggle with weight loss? Are you on a similar journey to me? I'd love to hear from you. 

Mrs B

xxx


You can arrange your own visit to The Body Hub at The University of Bedfordshire by contacting Jo.Richards@beds.ac.uk 

BOD POD testing costs £50. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

APRIL'S BAKING CHALLENGE: Chocolate Honey Cake


This month lent itself very nicely to this bake, as I hosted a Chocolate Tea Party yesterday for The Sick Children's Trust (read all about it here)…I needed something indulgent and chocolatey to bake, and this cake instantly sprung to mind. 

I first ate it at my friend Janet's house last summer - she didn't tell me what was in it, just that there was a *secret* ingredient - when I tasted it's fudgey gooeyness I was hooked, and couldn't quite place what the extra ingredient was…was it golden syrup? No. Black treacle? No. …. HONEY. And lots of it. 

As soon as I tasted it I knew I had to have a go at baking this myself, but hadn't gotten round to it, until now. Boy am I glad I did! This is hands down the BEST chocolate cake I've ever been able to make - I find them notoriously hard to get right - they're either dry, not chocolately enough or so deathly sweet you feel sick after one mouthful. 

This cake just ticks all the boxes - it is rich and chocolatey but the honey cuts through the richness and adds a light flowery note to the cake, it is gooey and fudgey in the middle and the glaze is literally divine. 

Of course, the recipe comes from the sexiest lady in baking, and one of my favourite celebrities, Nigella Lawson. I've never made a Nigella recipe I didn't like, so no surprises that this has become my new favourite cake! 


Chocolate Honey Cake with Marzipan Bees
makes 15 modest slices

(from a Nigella Recipe found here)

ingredients for the cake

100g dark chocolate (70%)
275g muscavado sugar
225g butter
125ml runny honey
2 eggs
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp cocoa powder
250ml boiling water

ingredients for the glaze

60ml water
125ml runny honey
175g dark chocolate
75g icing sugar

ingredients for the bees (I made 16)

100g marzipan
32 flaked almond pieces
drizzle of the glaze
a cocktail stick (to make the eyes)

METHOD

1. Melt the chocolate for the cake mix and leave to cool. Preheat oven to 180, and butter/line a 23cm spring form cake tin. 

2. Beat the butter and sugar together and add the honey. Beat in one of the eggs with 1 tbsp of the flour, then add the other egg in the same way (this stops the mix from curdling).

3. Fold in the melted chocolate, rest of the flour and the bicarbonate of soda.

4. Add the sieved cocoa powder and then the 250ml of boiling water and mix to make a smooth and very wet cake batter. 

5. Pour batter into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour (I baked mine for 1 hour 10 mins in total, so don't worry if yours takes a little bit extra to bake - you want it to not wobble when lightly shook, and a skewer to come out almost clean). Check the cake after 45 minutes as the top can get dark - pop some foil over if needed to stop it burning. 

6. Let the cake cool on a wire rack.

fresh from the oven - with a rather large dip - I think I opened the oven door a few times too many while it was cooking (oops!)- but it didn't affect the cake's taste at all, and provided a handy crater to place the bees safely on top! Lesson learned for next time. 


7. While the cake is cooling you can make your glaze and marzipan bees - divide your marzipan into 16 equal-ish sized balls, and squash slightly to make bumble bee type shapes. 

8. Make your glaze by putting the water and honey in a small pan and heating until boiling. Then turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. 

9. Leave for a few minutes and then whisk in the fully melted chocolate. 

10. Sieve in the icing sugar and whisk the glaze until smooth. 

11. Finish your bees by drizzling some of the glaze across them to make stripes, use a cocktail stick dipped in the glaze to give your bees eyes, and add two flaked almonds pushed in the top to give your bee wings! 

bees, bees, bees


12. Finally pour the glaze over your cake, and ease it down the sides until the cake is completely covered. Do this slowly and a little at a time to avoid too much mess - I used a cake board rather than putting my cake straight onto a cake stand as it meant I could wipe out the excess glaze that dripped off the sides before placing it on a nice clean cake stand. Pop on your bees and any other decorations you like, and t'ah d'ah - you're all done! 

glazed and ready for decorating

all done - I was pretty pleased with the final outcome! 

chocolate honey cake with marzipan bees


on the table ready to be devoured

it went down very well! 

one modest slice of bee cake (as it will now be known) on my plate last night - I had to try it!

 My friend Janet came along last night, and happily tried a piece of the cake (it is her favourite cake ever) - she  kindly informs me that my version was ALMOST as good as her husbands! Thanks Janet! :-)

The chocolate honey cake works out at 442 calories per slice if you make it serve 15. Sorry, you didn't want to know that, did you? 

What did you bake for Easter?

Mrs B

xxx

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

How To Throw A Chocolate Tea Party...


The Big Chocolate Tea Party logo

Yesterday evening, I hosted a Big Chocolate Tea Party to raise money for The Sick Children's Trust - the idea for the campaign is for the charity to raise as much money as possible throughout the month of April by hosting chocolate themed events - and I couldn't wait to participate - the idea of eating a shed load of chocolate after all my calorie counting was certainly a welcome prospect! 

I decided to theme the party on the colours yellow (my favourite) and brown (for chocolate), and got busy coming up with ideas for decorating my home, and working on putting together a collection of prizes for a raffle on the night. 

THE DECORATIONS

I made a few purchases to pull together the decorations for the party which included:


- a brown and white spotty table cloth

-some yellow paper plates and cups
-some yellow/white and brown/white stripy paper straws
-some yellow spotty napkins
-some yellow/white stripe sweetshop style bags
-some yellow and brown tissue paper
-some brown/white butchers style twine


...all of which I purchased on eBay.

The wonderful people over at Bimbily sent me an absolutely awesome DIY Word Banner (Multicolour) priced at £7.90 for me to decorate the main party room - I have to say this was my most favourite part of the decor - this banner is SO fun, and really bold. I love the fact that it's re-usable, and I know I'll be brining it out for every occasion now! I spelled out 'Chocolate Makes The World Go Round' 'Flake' 'Oreo' 'Wispa' and 'Prizes' for the raffle table - I think you'll agree it really added some pizzaz to the room. A huge thanks to Bimbily for their kindness in sending it over. 

letter banner

chocolate tea party decor

DIY letter banner

Next, I used this fab tutorial from Martha Stewart to make some tissue paper pom poms. I've never made these before, but always thought they looked effective, and I was so pleased with how they turned out. The tutorial is really simple to follow, and I love what a big bold colourful splash you can add to a party just using a little bit of tissue paper! 

tissue pompoms and popcorn garland
pom poms and popcorn

tissue pompoms
giant paper pom poms

tissue pompoms and popcorn garland
the pom pom/popcorn doorway! 

tissue pompoms and popcorn garland
edible decor! 

I also used my popcorn machine to make a big bowl of popcorn which I turned into a popcorn garland by threading it onto baker's twine using a large needle. I'd seen this idea on Pinterest and it had really stuck in my head- I'd been meaning to give it a go for a while, and it worked like a dream. Nice sustainable and cheap to make decorations - I guess you could spray paint the popcorn beforehand to make it an even brighter decoration.

The final touches came from the eBay purchases for the table…

chocolate tea party table

And a poster from The Sick Children's Trust which I decorated myself with cut out chocolate goodies from the Waitrose and Tesco magazines! 

the big chocolate tea party poster

All that was left to do was for us to get our glad rags on ….

Baby Bert in a Tux
The Bertster dressed up for the occasion! *too cute*

CHOCOLATE GOODIES…

So the way the tea party worked was that everyone paid £3 to attend, and agreed to bring something chocolatey to add to the buffet table, and some extra money to buy raffle tickets. Some guests kindly donated raffle prizes too - a huge thank you to everyone who donated. I also requested that everyone also bought plastic boxes with them to take a goody box home (as we didn't want to be left with any food at the end - it would make calorie counting impossible as it would be far too tempting!!) 

So, I had to decide what I should bake for the buffet table - and to be honest there was no contest - I have been desperate to try baking a chocolate honey cake that I tasted at my friend Janet's house last year - and so I knew that was the cake I had to make for the chocolate feast. It was also on my baking challenge list for 2014, so it ticked another bake off my list for me as well. I'll be sharing the recipe and the making process with you tomorrow on the blog (don't miss it - it's a seriously good bake!)…but until then, here's a sneak preview as to how it turned out…

Chocolate Honey Cake

Also on the buffet table we had….

-Cadbury's Creme Egg Brownies
-Chocolate muffin/mini egg cakes
-Chocolate Cheesecake
-Chocolate dipped fruit
-Chocolate dipped peppermint creams
-Chocolate chip cake
-Cookies
-Nutella Sandwiches
-Chocolate and Cheese Melba toasts
-Chocolate Cornflake Cakes
-Chocolate Covered Peanuts
-Chocolate Covered Raisins
-Gooey Chocolate Pudding with Double Cream
-White Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting

hahahaha - thats A LOT of chocolate!

I also put out some huge bowls of salty crisps - they were very much needed! 

Chocolate Cheesecake
chocolate cheese cake made by Anwyn 


Mini Egg Chocolate Muffins
mini egg chocolate muffins by Danni, Charlie & Kath


Gooey chocolate pudding
gooey chocolate pudding with double cream made by Val (this was incredible!) 


Chocolate and Cheese Melba Toasts
Chocolate and cheese melba toasts by Danni, Charlie and Kath


Creme Egg Brownies
Creme Egg Brownies made by one of my besties Liz (thanks mate, these were to die for!)

I didn't manage to get a photo of everything, but those pictures have definitely given you the gist of what was on offer! I hope you're all salivating now!


chocolate feast
MY DINNER :-) wow, this was an awesome treat! 

THE RAFFLE…

The wonderful people over at GuyLian chocolates kindly donated two huge boxes of choccies to the raffle.

Another of the prizes donated was an awesome reusable paper storage sack from PeaStyle - this is an uber cool home accessory which can be used for storing pretty much anything in a ultra-trendy way. 

Le Sac en Papier storage bag
Fab raffle prize - thanks Pea Style! 

A huge thank you to PeaStyle for their kind donation - it is much appreciated! And my best friend Danni won the prize, she was so happy as she'd had her eye on it all night! 

Chocolate Raffle Prizes

Some of the other prizes up for grabs included:

-homemade "Epic" hot choc powder
-A bottle of champagne
-A box of Sainbury's Tatse the Difference belgian chocolates
-a Green and Blacks cookery book
-some homemade Chilli jam
-A Green & Blacks tasting kit
-a make your own purse sewing kit from wonderful Janet at Kitchen Table Sewing 
-A large Thornton's Easter egg

...as well as some other scrummy edible chocolate-based prizes which I didn't get a chance to photograph!

Thanks to all those who bought tickets.

Most people went home with a prize, so smiles all round!

PICS FROM THE NIGHT...

Mags and Liz at Mrs Bishop's Chocolate Tea Party


Rhi at Mrs Bishop's Chocolate Tea Party


Lovely Ladies at Mrs Bishop's Chocolate Tea Party


at Mrs Bishop's Chocolate Tea Party


at Mrs Bishop's Chocolate Tea Party

Mrs Bishop's Chocolate Tea Party

I'm very pleased to say that 20 people attended the tea party, and we managed to raise over £150 for The Sick Children's Trust so a HUGE thank you to everyone who helped make it a great success! 

Today, I'm off to deliver this *awesome* goody box to some friends who couldn't make the night but deserve an extra special yummy treat…

Best chocolate goodie box ever
best goodie-box EVER?

Did you all have a marvellous Easter? 

Have you eaten your weight in chocolate? 

I do hope so! 

Mrs B
xxx

If you'd like to donate some money to The Sick Children's Trust you can do so by visiting their website.