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Lifestyle|| Combatting Blue Monday

Tomorrow is D-day. It’s Blue Monday. We all know it was created by marketing. A day designed for PRs to outreach with everything and anything to help you feel better about yourself and life this January. To get you feeling more sunshine yellow than blue.

It was actually invented in 2014 by the PRs behind Sky Travel, and there IS a formula behind it. It apparently takes into account many factors including weather, money, Christmas blues, failing new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling like we need to do something about it all. It might be pseudoscience, i.e something based on fluff, but either way we know this time of year can be tough.

With tomorrow marking the day, here’s a list of my top tips for getting through. Not just tomorrow, but the rest of January and February. Because let’s face it, this cold winter weather, the dark evenings, being thrown back into reality after Christmas and any stresses about everyday life, can really affect happiness and fulfillment. The year goes by too fast to have two whole months of blue, so why not see what making a few small changes/things could do.

Plan ‘me’ days with all of your favourite things

What are your favourite little things to do when you’re on your own? You know the things I mean. Reading? Bath? Baking? Make a list of all the small things you love and plan a day on one of the closest weekends to do some of those things. As many as you want/can fit in. Again it’s something to look forward to, but thinking of these little things, and doing these things can really help with happiness and how much you love your life right now.

Book trips

All the trips. Whether it’s a day trip to Brighton for as soon as the weather is warmer, a city break to Madrid or even a day out exploring a new part of the city or a nearby town. They all count and give that extra little motivation and happiness looking at the year ahead. Plan to go to places you’ve always wanted to. You don’t need to book the big dream trips if you’re a bit strapped, as many are at this time of year. The smaller trips can make such a difference too. Planning with friends is fun, but even if you go solo, you can have a great time.

Day trip to Paris

Plan trips home

For some this is easier to do than others and I do appreciate that. But even planning one family holiday for the year ahead can give you something to look forward to – and with some of the most important people. Family can make such a difference. So having those who know you best, within your near future plans can give you that drive to get through.

Fitness

Fitness helps so many things in the fight to feel better. It releases ‘feel good hormones’, gives you more energy, helps you sleep better, and can help take your mind off stressful situations or things. But the thing which is key when it comes to working out is finding the thing which suits you – you might be more of a yoga person, more of a running or swimming individual, or perhaps someone who likes a more dance style class. Do the things you find fun, that always helps in keeping it up! If you’re worried about money, there’s so many free ways you can exercise. Youtube is the best!

Health & Fitness at O2 Centre Finchley Road

Mindfulness

OK, this one doesn’t work for everyone, and being mindful does really take practice! But meditation or practicing mindfulness can work wonders on your mental state and mood. It can really help you switch off from work and any other things playing on your mind too. This can take the form of meditation, colouring or even yoga – anything where you have to focus on something other than your phone and what you need to deal with. Try put aside 20 minutes or so to just do you.

Cooking wholesome meals

Good mood food. Food has a big impact on mood too, but not just that. Cooking can be a great way to relax and unwind. Taking your mind off the day. So why not whip out a new recipe this January/February and try something different? You might even surprise yourself – and that just leads to more pride and happiness! Plus food always tastes better when you’d put in so much effort!

Roasted Vegetable & Turkey Meatball Salad

Social switch off

This is very much in line with the above, and living in the moment. I.e. really taking in everything you’re doing right now. Social media has been found to negatively affect your mental health. I’m sure you can see why. Constantly being switched on, the feeling of FOMO when you’re sat doing nothing, or the comparison of your life to someone else’s ‘social media life’. I can have a huge effect on the way you feel about your own life. So why not switch off? Even for half a day? Turn off your notifications, put your phone on loud so you only hear if you get a call or message and completely ignore your phone. Do your own thing. Focus on the now. I love having an day off social, it really does help.

Laugh

Laughter is another thing which affects mood positively. So why not plan an evening with those friends who make you giggle, an activity with your partner which is bound to set off a chuckle, or a night of stand-up to release those belly laughs. Laughing is contagious. So not only will you help yourself but you’ll help others too! But even if everyone is busy, get out Netflix, pick a comedy and let your hair down. It’ll feel great!

Edinburgh festive weekend break

Listen to your body

This is so key through all of these things. Only you know what you need. Listen to your body. Do you crave a night in? Do you feel sluggish and need a detox weekend? Or do you actually need a weekend indulging in takeaway and letting go? Now plan those things. The more you listen to what your body tells you that you need, and give it those things, the more you’ll feel good about it and yourself.

These won’t all fit everyone. You have to listen to your own body and mind and select the ones which work for you. After all, it’s you that you need to look after. But I hope some of these help!

If you can’t seem t shift the blue feeling, it’s also super helpful to talk to someone – whether that’s friends or family. Talking it through can help. They know you pretty well too and might be able to suggest something different to the above.

Look after yourself and show yourself some love this January and February. What do you have planned over the next few months?

Chloe xx

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Eating Out|| Panzo, Exmouth Market

I’m a huge fan of pizza. A good thin and crisp base. Super cheesy. Plenty of veggie toppings. Perhaps a little meat too. Or anchovies. Mmmm. There I go again day dreaming about pizza. But I don’t always opt for pizza because, well basically, one there’s so much choice that I end up going for something else when out. But two, it doesn’t make me feel the best after I’ve eaten it. Because when you’re somewhere like Franco Manca or Pizza Pilgrims, you’re going to eat a whole pizza. And all that dough is never going to make you feel amazing. Sometimes you just have to give in, wear the stretchy waistband, but now there’s another option too.

Panzo.

Panzo ‘pizzas’ are created on sourdough bases, made with a combination of rice, soy and wheat flour too, and left to prove for up to 72 hours. They claim to be low in saturated fat and are meant to be easier to digest too! (I mean eating doughy foods are always going to make you a little bloated, but I felt pretty good the next morning).

Panzo pizza, exmouth market

They’re double cooked, are the teeniest bit oily (think sourdough cross with foccacia) and are super delicious! In fact, I’ll go as far as saying I prefer this to a normal base! They’re really that good.

Panzo is actually the name of the restaurant too.

Panzo is a super cute little spot on Exmouth Market, amongst the twinkly lights. The interior, tables and seats are pretty beige, but the walls are filled with small prints, mini shelves, plenty of plants and there are hanging lights too. It’s a lovely little spot. Service was friendly also, which always makes a difference.

Panzo pizza, exmouth market

The menu features ten panzos (with options to modify) – obviously the main attraction. There’s also a few salads, arancini and pasta dishes, bread and olives too.

All the breads went down a treat with 15 of us foodies.

They were slightly crisp on the edges, with the same dough as the pizza. The Garlic & Rosemary had a beautifully subtle flavour. A classic.

Panzo pizza, exmouth market

The Green Pesto & Tomato bread was a sure fire fave amongst many.  It had plenty of rich tomato and nutty pesto. Absolutely fantastic.

Panzo pizza, exmouth market

Continuing with the carbs feast…

The panzo ‘pizzas’ were a big hit with us all too. Some obviously taking the spotlight a little more.

The Quattro Formaggi, a mix of Goat’s Cheese, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Grana Padano, was SO cheesy! I loved the fact that it was served with a balsamic glaze – it gave it an extra depth to the flavour. So indulgent.

The Triple P got a lot of buzz around the table. A combination of Roasted Pumpkin Cream, Mozzarella, Tuscan Pancetta, Salt Cured Sicilian Ricotta Cheese and Parsley, it was nicknamed the ‘carbonara’ pizza, and enjoyed by many!

Panzo pizza, exmouth market

I had to try the vegan number. Called the Popeye, it was topped with homemade zucchini mint cream, spinach, garlic, red onions and black olives. To me, it was more like an open top sandwich than a pizza (or Panzo), but was still really tasty! I still don’t think I’d choose this instead of a cheesy option, as I’m not vegan, but for anyone doing Veganuary, or who’s gone totally vegan, it’s pretty good.

Panzo pizza, exmouth market

Panzo pizza, exmouth market
A pizza crossed with curry, I never thought would work. But the Curry panzo, with slightly Spicy Chicken Curry made with Bell Peppers, Onions, balanced mix of Spices, was actually pretty creamy and made a fab pizza topping. One I really enjoyed.
The panzo which topped my favourites however, was the St. Paolo. Gorgonzola Cream, Roasted Mushrooms, Truffle Oil and Parsley, it was rich, indulgent, and packed with truffle flavour. It was seriously dreamy. I would go for this time and time again!
Panzo pizza, exmouth market

As for the drinks, Panzo has just launched a new gin menu!

The new menu features 11 gin options, from Brockmans to Gin Mare and Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin. They’re all served in huge copa style glasses, with their own garnish. Gin makes such a refreshing accompaniment for panzo – such a better combo than with beer! The Rhubarb & Ginger Gin was delicious.
Panzo pizza, exmouth market
I had such a fab evening at the event organised by East London Girl. It’s always lovely to catch-up with and meet fellow foodies. But especially when it’s at such a good spot. This is definitely somewhere I’ll be heading back to.

SUMMARY:

  • Price: The panzos are all priced at £8.95 which I think is fantastic. The breads start at £3.95 (but are huge) and the gin £7.95. All in all, great value for money!
  • Food: This panzo crust is the one. There are some fantastic toppings choices too.
  • Drinks: Plenty to choose from, including a new gin menu with some great options.
  • Atmosphere: Super cute, relaxed, quiet and friendly.
  • Wait: It was pretty quiet in the week so you should be able to just walk in, weekends may get busier.

If you’re a sourdough pizza fan, I highly recommend getting yourself down to Panzo! Let me know what you think. Where’s your favourite pizza place right now?

Chloe xx

*I was invited along to an event organised by East London Girl. All views my own. 

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Eating Out|| Pho ‘Healthy Specials’ Menu

Pho, the vietnamese street food restaurant, is a popular spot with many already. The restaurants are always bustling, almost full to queues outside for Pho to Go, whether at lunchtime or evening. It’s a sign of a good spot, as well as those who return for the likes of the comforting warming dishes like pho noodle soups, curry and rice bowls, like I do.

The relaxed yet friendly service, and the minimalist, stripped back canteen feel with a touch of the South-East asia, makes Pho feel more like you’re popping into a casual dining spot and taking things at your own pace. I love this style of dining as much as anything else.

I went a quite a few times with one of my old work places, for Pho to Go for full company meetings or the friday hangover cure. I’m usually a big fan of the Spicy Green Pho or the wok fried noodles with tofu. But this month Pho has launched a new ‘Healthy Specials’ menu, and I got super excited to see what it was about.

The new menu features two starters and four mains.

Pho Restaurant Healthy Specials Menu

From hand rolls to cauliflower rice and courgetti, everything sounded pretty delicious. Calories, and on some dishes fat/protein has also been included, which is super handy for those using this this month to get the balance back after the festivities. But don’t get hooked on it, you just need balance. To be honest, it’s all ‘healthy’ so go by what you fancy!

The Enoki Hand Rolls, rice paper hand roll filled with crunchy veg, enoki mushrooms, fine vermicelli & perilla, were something I wouldn’t usually order. So I had to – January is for trying new things right?! They were a little different at first, served cold but they were pretty tasty. Very fresh, they’re a fab mix of textures. They came with a peanut sauce which is always a winner! Just a little messy to eat – but perhaps I still need to master the ways of consuming hand rolls.

Pho Restaurant Healthy Specials Menu

The Boodle Pho Chin, tender brisket in beef broth with butternut squash “noodles”, was deep in flavour, comforting and super warming. The ultimate healthy comfort meal. The beef broth was rich, the boodles a la dente, the beef was super tender, and the beansprouts crunchy. Mixed with the fresh garnish, it was a fab mix of textures and flavours.

Pho Restaurant Healthy Specials Menu

I thought I’d miss the carbs, but I did nothing of the sort.

The Cauliflower Rice Bowl, topped with wok-fried Chinese leaf, veggies, pickles, herbs & fresh chillies, chosen with Tofu and vegetable was a delicious option too.  With a fantastic base of perfect cauliflower rice , and the mix of flavours and textures it made one fab dish.

Pho Restaurant Healthy Specials Menu

We couldn’t help but order a side of Đậu que from the normal menu too. A la dente Green beans & sugarsnaps, in a mild peanut dressing and sprinkled in sesame seeds. They were slightly crunchy, drizzled in just enough peanut sauce to add the flavour, with extra peanut sauce for dipping. That sauce is the one. Definitely a side you HAVE to order!

Pho Restaurant Healthy Specials Menu

To accompany the new healthy specials dishes, are  handful of teas and a soft drink. The UpBeet tea, an energising tea with hibiscus, and the Happy tea, an uplifting beverage with lemon balm, were both  subtle in flavour yet beautiful teas. I’d definitely recommend finishing with one of these!

Pho Restaurant Healthy Specials Menu

But the drink which stole the show was the soft drink option – The Nojito.

A booze-free cocktail of muddled lime & mint, homemade lemonade & soda, it’s so refreshing and zesty. It made a fab accompaniment to our dishes and is definitely the one for those doing Dry January.

Pho Restaurant Healthy Specials Menu

I thought the usual Pho menu was great, but this new one has outdone it. We had such a lovely lunch date over this feast. I’m definitely heading back for more – Next time I’m trying the courgetti!

SUMMARY:

  • Price: The new healthy mains are priced between £9.25 and £10.95 (in the Covent Garden branch), which is really cheap, especially for the quality and portions!
  • Food: There are some fantastic healthier options for if you’re trying to work on that balance this January, or even if you’re usually one for the lighter options. The new dishes are super fresh yet warming, don’t lack in flavour, and are just as filling!
  • Drinks: The teas went down well, but the Nojito stole the show – so refreshing. Could even make you consider going with the non-alcoholic option more often!
  • Atmosphere: minimalist, stripped back canteen feel, with relaxed service
  • Wait: It does get busy so be prepared to wait at peak times. Although you can book a table at some of the locations, or even go Pho to Go and take out.

I do very much recommend popping along this January. It’s definitely worth the trip! How are you keeping the balance this month? Tried any new healthy menus?

Chloe xx

*I was invited along to review the new ‘Healthy Specials’ menu at Pho on behalf of East London Girl, but wanted to share with you too…all views my own.

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Recipe|| The ultimate garlic scrambled egg

I know what you’re thinking. Garlic, for breakfast? My answer. YES. Absolutely, when it’s Garlic scrambled egg. Always.

This scramble isn’t over-powered with garlic flavour. Don’t worry. I know no one wants to start the day with garlic breath.

Garlic scrambled egg recipe

Over Christmas, whilst Chris and I were cooking for each other, he served up the most amazing scrambled eggs for brekkie one morning. I think I actually did a little sigh when I took my first bite. And the second.

I thought I’d finally perfected my scrambled eggs. But this. This was next level. I’m ashamed to say, I lost this battle.

Garlic scrambled egg recipe

The scramble was creamy yet fluffy with a light, delicious garlic flavour. Served on buttered toast or a bagel, or even with a full english, it made one seriously tasty start to the day. It can be a light brekkie, or part of a bigger brunch – but on both occasions being the showstopper. Although the M&S chorizo-style sausages were incredible too.

Since coming back to reality in London, I’ve re-made this fab recipe a couple times, and can confirm it’s definitely a keeper! I actually quite like mine with avocado and a sprinkle of parmesan too!

Garlic scrambled egg recipe

Recipe is below. It’s super simple. Super tasty. Worth whipping up this weekend! Go for the avo and parmesan combo, or perhaps some fried cherry tomatoes and wilted spinach.

Have you discovered any breakfast twists you love recently?

Chloe xx

The ultimate garlic scrambled egg

A fab twist on classic scramble. Perfect for everyday.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper for seasoning

Instructions

  1. Heat a frying pan over a low to medium heat. Melt the butter.

  2. Beat the eggs and add to the frying pan. Sprinkle over the garlic powder, salt and pepper. 

  3. Cook over the medium low heat. Keep folding as it cooks - don't stir or chop the egg, this helps form a beautiful scramble and keeps it fluffy and creamy. 

  4. Remove from the heat just before it's cooked through - it should still be slightly runny, but not watery. This way it won't be overcooked once you've buttered your carbs, and served it atop. Enjoy!

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Chloe Tries|| Dry January – Ceder’s Distilled Non-Alcoholic Gin

Struggling with Dry January? Craving a sip of that gin flavour? I’ve discovered the answer. Ceder’s Distilled Non-Alcoholic Gin.

An alternative to the hard stuff. Perfect for this month. And if you don’t drink normally. Or you’re trying to cut down but want something a little more sophisticated and fancier than a diet coke or appletizer.

Ceder's Non-alcoholic gin

Ceder’s was founded by married couple, Craig and Maria, and features a number of elements taken from both of their heritage.

Craig is from near Cape Town. As a boy he’d go hiking, and just a few years ago ventured back whilst taking a career break (a mindfulness adventure as he called it), and showed Maria the sites. They discovered a valley two hours north of Cape Town (actually after a row, which they now laugh about), and property up for sale with plenty of land. Land which once grew a number of botanicals Craig was keen to use – his heritage.

But being on an adventure focused on mindfulness, away from the hustle and bustle of his previous corporate career (and the alcohol we all know goes alongside) he wanted to aim for something non-alcoholic. Always a gin lover, they knew that’s what they wanted to create.

Ceder's Non-alcoholic gin

Maria on the other hand is of Swedish heritage, and thinks they have the best water in the world. With water such an important ingredient within gin, she knew she wanted to use the best. Alongside this, they used Mediterranean botanicals to help bring out the juniper taste. And now they have three varieties;

  • Classic (floral and balanced) – A blend of classic gin botanicals such as juniper and coriander combined with hints of geranium and Cape floral fynbos
  • Crisp (refreshing and tranquil) – A refreshing blend of classic gin botanicals such as juniper and citrus combined with cucumber and calming camomile.
  • Wild (spicy and intriguing) – An intriguing blend of classic gin botanicals such as juniper and ginger, combined with clove and rooibos.

The wild is definitely my favourite.

Ceder's Non-alcoholic gin

It has a slightly spiced edge, and tasted almost a little warmer. Perhaps even a tiny bit festive with cranberry juice. The classic is fab too. You can’t expect an exact replica of a gin, but it’s super close. It’s light, crisp, and delicious with a tonic and fresh slice, but also in mocktails!

The bottles are pretty pricey in the supermarket (I wouldn’t usually spend the same on non-alcoholic alternatives as I would a bottle of actual gin) but this is definitely something I’d treat myself to when dining out every now and then. It went beautifully with our feast at Hawksmoor – the first restaurant it was available in.

Ceder's Non-alcoholic gin Hawksmoor Ceder's Non-alcoholic gin Hawksmoor

One of the things Craig kept mentioning was escaping the every day. Enjoying a mindful moment. I like that mantra, and that’s something I’m going to try and do a little more often. Perhaps with a non-alcoholic drink in hand more than an alcoholic one too!

Summary:

  • Quality: Great quality. Delicious.
  • Best bit?: It’s refreshing, and a fantastic alternative with tonic and a slice of fresh fruit. Just as delicious within a mocktail too.
  • Price: At £20 for a 50cl bottle, it’s a little pricey for a non-alcoholic drink in my mind. But definitely something I’d consider purchasing when out.
  • Would I recommend trying? – Yes, it’s definitely worth a try if you’re dining out and it’s on the menu.
  • Availability: Tesco, Sainsbury’s Whisky Exchange, Amazon y the bottle, and at Bill’s and Hawksmoor on the drinks menu.

What are your favourite alternatives to alcohol? Are you doing dry january this year?

Chloe xx

*I was invited along to an event as part of the East London Girl team. All views my own.

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