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Chocolate & Tahini Cookies

I’m still working my way through that bag of buckwheat flour.  My mum is always baking something and there’s always something good happening in my friend Sarah’s kitchen too.  I keep jealously looking at these photos of marvellous creations on Instagram and then suppressing my urge to bake something by telling myself that I don’t want to make a mess in my kitchen, but that’s what dishwashers are for, right?

 

Anyway, back to the buckwheat.  I had a bit of a cupboard cull.  I  dug out all of the things I thought I could make cookies with, and I made cookies!  And they were delicious.  Here’s the recipe of my own creation (adapted from something else yes, but I’m claiming this as an original).

 

Chocolate & Tahini Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 120 ml  maple syrup*
  • 90 ml  tahini**
  • 90 gr of crushed up pumpkin seeds (I just whacked them for a bit with a pestle).
  • 135 gr  buckwheat flour
  • heaped ½ tsp baking soda
  • 4 level tbsp ¼ cup cacao powder
  • little pinch of sea salt (optional)
  • sunflower seeds to decorate (optional)

METHOD

  1. In a bowl, whisk up maple syrup and tahini until fully combined and there are no lumps in your tahini.
  2. Mix in your crushed up pumpkin seeds until fully combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine sifted flour, baking soda and cacao powder. Add it to the tahini mixture in 3 batches. The mixture will be thick and sticky so it’s best to use your hands. (If you’ve swapped buckwheat flour for a gluten flour, be careful not to overmix the dough as the cookies will come out hard).
  4. This is the really messy bit! Weigh the dough and divide it into 16 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and dip it in a plate of sunflower seeds mixed in with a bit of salt (if using), press the ball down with a bottom of a glass to create a ½ cm thick & 5 cm diameter disc.  I used a shot glass and it worked perfectly.
  5. Once you get all the discs coated in the sunflower seeds, put them into the fridge for about 40 min. 30 min in, pre-heat the oven to 175° C / 350° F.
  6. Bake in a hot oven for 10-13 mins. Remove the biscuits from the oven, transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool down completely before eating. Store in an airtight container.

NOTES

*I used pretty much half maple syrup, half date syrup because I didn’t have enough maple.

**Make sure you stir your tahini first to combine all the oil.  I guess you could substitute smooth peanut butter if you don’t have any tahini.

These cookies are not overly sweet because I don’t really have a sweet tooth.  They would probably have been sweeter if I’d used solely maple syrup.

In the end they had about 15 minutes in the oven, which was a tiny bit too much and is why they look somewhat burnt on the edges.

And the sunflower seeds all kind of fall off when you are eating them, but that’s part of the fun!

Tips for setting up your home yoga space.

 

 

Practising yoga at home doesn’t come naturally to some of us, whether it’s finding a quiet space or having enough ceiling height to get your hands above your head (me), it’s definitely been a learning curve over the last month.  I am so impressed and grateful for everyone’s willingness to adjust and adapt to this new world of online yoga!  I thought I’d write a list of tips that might make your home yoga practice a little more enjoyable and “yogic”.

1. Find or create some home-made yoga props!  If you are used to practising with props in class and if they will help make your practice a little more comfortable, use what you have around you.  It’s been difficult to purchase yoga equipment online since lockdown began, but you don’t need to buy fancy gear.  A few favourites include: sofa cushions to lift your seat or pad your knees, rolled up pillows or blankets as bolsters, hard cover books (I have some big hardcover gardening books!) as blocks, and the cord off your dressing gown or thin scarves as yoga straps.

2. Create a space for yourself. Whether that’s your bedroom, a section of your living room or in the garden.  Try to make setting up your yoga space part of the ritual of coming to class.  Take 5 minutes to get your space how you want it.  Move your work stuff out of the way, and the laundry basket – clutter does not make for a conducive yoga experience!  Maybe light a candle, or put your diffuser on.  Great oils for yoga are patchouli and frankincense!  Let me know if you need any of that sort of gorgeousness – you can buy your oils through me.

3. Turn your bloody phone off!  And close down the email on your laptop!  You don’t want to be seeing notifications popping up on your screen if you are on your tablet.  Take the time to prepare so you can enjoy uninterrupted peace during class.

4. Position your camera for individual adjustments. If you decide to have your camera on, it can help the teacher to have your camera positioned so that it can capture the entire width of your mat as well as your body when you are standing upright. Generally a distance of 2 metres works for most devices (yes, social distancing from your camera!). It can also be useful to have your mat positioned so that its at a 45 to 90 degree angle to your camera rather than facing the camera head on. These little changes make it so your teacher can more easily offer you individual instructions and cues.  I appreciate that this is not always possible given the constraints of the spaces you are practicing in.  Note: Keeping your camera off is always an option too!

5. Shut the door.  If at all possible, shut your loved ones out of the room.  It’s beautiful to see you all being cuddled by your dogs during savasana – this is fine.  I’m talking about husbands, wives, partners, kids who wander through the space and ask questions about where the shed keys are or what’s for tea.  They wouldn’t be able to contact you if you were at the yoga studio!

Hopefully you find some of these suggestions helpful! Don’t take them too seriously, you all know how I love a tongue-in-cheek blog post.  Most importantly, remember these tips are ways to enhance your experience – not hinder it!  Take what you like and leave the rest.

Buckwheat & Chocolate Muffins

Does anyone else always have half a bag of buckwheat flour in the cupboard, or is it just me?!  This recipe is not vegan – but pretty sure you could use flax eggs and non-dairy chocolate – when I make it, this is what I will be doing.

INGREDIENTS (makes 12 MUFFINS)

  • 225g buckwheat flour. 
  • 3 eggs.
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon. 
  • 1 ripe banana. 
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped. 
  • 1 & ½ tsp. baking powder. 
  • 150ml coconut or almond milk. 
  • 100g 70-85% dark chocolate.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 190C. 
  • Mash the banana with a fork in a large bowl. 
  • Then add the buckwheat flour, eggs, cinnamon, baking powder, milk, apple, and mix well. 
  • Grease a muffin tin or use muffin cases and evenly fill 12 moulds with the batter.
  • Place/drop some chocolate on the top of each muffin Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. 
  • Leave to cool before serving and enjoying!

Cacao & Orange Power Balls – Recipe

Ingredients (makes about 16 balls).

  • 200 g pitted medjool dates
  • 50g pumpkin seeds (ground)
  • 50g sunflower seeds (ground)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. pure orange extract
  • 3 tbsps.  cacao or cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsps. melted coconut oil
  • 20g natural whey or vegan blend protein powder (or just don’t bother with this bit!)

Method.

  • Add everything to a food processor and blend until well combined.
  • Using a teaspoon take chunks of the mixture and roll together with clean hands into balls.
  • Place desiccated coconut onto a plate and gently roll each ball in it until coated.
  • Store the balls in the fridge for minimum 1 hour to set, keep in the fridge, and enjoy!
  • They can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months (if there’s any left to freeze!)

 

As soon as I’ve made them, I will post a picture.  In the meantime, you know what a power ball looks like – little brown balls of chewy goodness.  Can’t wait!!

At least find out my name!

Dear Prospective Yoga Teachers

You are just about to finish your teacher training and you are enthusiastically emailing every yoga studio in the area to find out if you can hold a class there.

Here are a few tips that might help you:

1) Find out the name of the person who owns the studio. It’s not hard. If you dig around on the studio website I’m sure you’ll be able to find it. Address your email to the owner, even if you are emailing a generic email address. And if you still can’t find the name – phone and ask.

2) Consider actually attending some classes at the studio. As part of your teacher training, I’m sure they’ve told you to practice with different teachers in different places. Furthermore, if you want to be part of the teaching staff at your local yoga studio, then join in with the community. Find out what we do. Like our Facebook page or follow us on Instagram. Leave some comments. BUILD A RELATIONSHIP with the community.

3) “I would like to hold a yoga class” means nothing! What are you going to be doing in our space? Tell me what sort of yoga you are trained in, or going to be trained in.

4) Do your research! Don’t just send an email saying you’d like to teach a class here. Look at the timetable! If you can see what may be a spare slot in the timetable, then ask about that one. Don’t send an email expecting me to respond with the slots I have free. That is time out of my day.

5) What’s your niche? Don’t tell me, you’ve just done a 200-hr training. In what? With whom? What demographic are you wanting to reach?

6) Be professional. Take the time to write me more than a two sentence email. Direct me to your website or Instagram or something! Tell me who you are. Tell me about you. I know you won’t have a yoga cv yet, but at least tell me what your background is.

7) Do not tell me that I can call you to discuss.  I will not be calling you.  If you want to talk to me, you call me.

Here at Great Malvern Yoga, we nurture our student teachers and newly qualified teachers.  We offer mentoring too.  If you take the time to build a relationship with us, then we will help you.  If you are serious about your yoga teaching career, then please take the time to do the homework.  It is not easy to establish yourself as a yoga teacher these days.  The market is VERY competitive.  Make yourself stand out from the very beginning.

Good Luck!

Why yoga is better for you than the gym – Part 1

I hear this a lot, “Oooo, I would come to yoga, but I already pay a gym membership”… Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to ditch your gym membership and some gyms even offer yoga classes, but here’s why I think you should give yoga a try at a proper, dedicated studio:

1. Gyms stink of other people!  We’ve all been there.  You’ve been waiting for ages to get on the bike and when you finally get on it, the sweaty person before you has not even bothered to wipe it down afterwards, and oh look, is that moisture on the seat where their ass has been?  And now you have to use your towel to wipe up someone else’s ass sweat before you can sit down.  In my yoga studio, the mats are clean and it smells of joss stick, not sweat.

2. You need to think about the exercise you are doing in order to derive the most benefit from it.  How many of you plug your iPod into the cross trainer and think about everything in the world other than what your body is actually doing? Body moving mechanically like a robot, mind chattering away like a monkey.  How is that benefiting you?

3. Yoga is a work out for the mind as well as the body.  Yes, yoga tones your whole body, but it also brings positivity to your mind and spirit.  Going to the gym is primarily focused on the body.

4. Yoga can get cardio too!  There is a fairly common misconception that we yogis sit around contemplating our toe nails and that you can’t come to a yoga class because you’ll miss the cardio workout that you get in the gym.  Not true.  Some yoga classes, especially vinyasa flow or ashtanga classes, will get you out of breath and will give you that cardiovascular workout that you need.

5. Gyms encourage narcissism.  You will never find a mirror in my yoga studio.  In yoga, you think about what your body is doing, about where your limbs are placed.  In a gym, the mirror does most of that work for you.  And not only can you see what you are doing, but you can also see what everyone else is doing… And then you start comparing yourself to other people.  In yoga, we are encouraged to keep our eyes on our own mats and to draw our attention inwards.  It’s your body, no one else’s!

I’ve decided to split this post in two.  I could go on at length about this, but I’ll save another 5 points for another time.  Your attention is probably waning now and you are thinking about putting the kettle on.  Go do it!  See you on the mat sometime!

 

 

Curved Balls!

Sometimes life throws you curved balls.

Why did I decide to look for a yoga studio? Way back in February when the Severn was flooded, something told me to look for somewhere better to hold my yoga classes. I was sick of smelly church hall carpets, spiders, glitter on the floor, the burlesque class in the next room…. As it happened I found my yoga studio. And it’s perfect. I knew I wanted it as soon as I saw it. My aim was to create a haven of peace, two storeys above Church Street in Great Malvern.

I never imagined that 2 years after qualifying as a yoga teacher, I would be opening my own space in Great Malvern. My heart is totally centred in this town. I never thought I would put down roots in any place other than my home town, but we’ve been here for 17 years now, and I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be. I feel like I belong. Like part of the furniture. This is my home, I love the place, and nothing makes me happier than to be able to create my yoga studio in the very heart of it.

Lots of hard work later, me, Chris, my Mum & Dad, Sharon & Spence, lovely Sue and the gorgeous Miranda, (but mainly me & Chris) have created an amazing space for yoga and all things mindful. Everyone who has been so far has declared it to be peaceful and beautiful. What more could I ask for after all this hard work? I ruined my Converse when I was cleaning the front steps…. All in the name of my love for yoga, for this space, and you guys.

Sometimes life throws you other curved balls.

My HS (hidrandenitis suppurativa) does not like change. Neither does this sciatica that I seem to have developed. Whenever my right piriformis is compressed for any length of time, it starts to complain, butt goes numb, eventually whole leg, even foot goes numb…. And the HS just protests every time something changes in my life, new job, new yoga studio… god forbid I take a holiday or anything, then it’s even worse! The pain is the pain, is the pain. It’s so constant that I barely even notice it any more. Obviously sometimes it’s horrendous and you can’t continue to live a normal life, but while ever it’s just the day to day leakages and general hot spots, you can continue being a normal person. Just about. Don’t wear white trousers though when you have HS. It’s just not worth the constant paranoia!

Sometimes life throws you other curved balls.

It’s my birthday on Thursday. 37….. ahem!!!! It’s a whole year since I did 36 sun salutations on top of the Worcestershire Beacon to raise money for the HS Trust. This year I’m hosting a donation-based yoga class in my new studio. Thursday 14th August – 6pm. Let me know if you are coming. Expect sweaty flow, based on gratitude, expect some curved balls and postures you’ve never done before… but most of all expect cake!

Yogis & yoginis, I am eternally grateful for the love and support you are showing me in this new venture. I am humbled. Going forwards, it’s just so exciting as I add new classes and new teachers, new styles of yoga, mindfulness, meditation…. Great Malvern Yoga is underway. And I’ll be importing this blog to the new website. Keep y’all posted!

Namaste. Kxxx

Moroccan Spiced Orange Cake Recipe (Gluten and Lactose free)

This is my Easter cake recipe.  I can actually eat this cake without fear of being crippled with stomach cramps for days afterwards.  The recipe is adapted from a book my mum bought for me called The Guilt-Free Gourmet by Jordan & Jessica Bourke.

moroccan spiced orange cake

My Moroccan Spiced Orange Cake for Easter

Ingredients

300g/1.5 cups ground almonds
250g/1.5 cups xylitol (actually I used 180g of soft brown sugar.  Xylitol is no doubt better for you, but I didn’t have any!)
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tbsp chia seeds (my addition)
2 tsp matcha powder (my addition)
5 eggs
200ml + 1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp agave nectar + 60ml/5 tbsp for the syrup (I only used 3 tbsp in the syrup – 5 just seems a bit excessive, although the syrup would probably be less runny)
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
grated zest and juice of half a lemon
3 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks

1 20cm/8-inch springform pan, base lined with parchment paper (I couldn’t find my springform pans, so I just used two normal sandwich tins)

Makes 10-12 slices

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), Gas 4.
2. In a bowl, mix together the ground almonds, xylitol/sugar, baking powder, chia seeds and matcha powder with a wooden spoon.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sunflower oil, the 2 teaspoons of agave syrup, and the orange and lemon zests.
4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and combine together using an electric whisk.
5. Pour the cake mixture into the baking tin(s) and bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes (35 minutes was enough when using two tins, I suspect using one tin will take a bit longer).  Insert a skewer into the top and the end of cooking time, and if it comes out clean, your cake is done.  During cooking, if the top looks like it is going to burn, cover with foil, but be careful not to press on the cake.  Personally, I like it a tiny bit browned on the top anyway.
6. Allow the cake to cool slightly while you make the syrup.
7. Put the orange and lemon juices, the 60ml/5 tbsp, the cloves and the cinnamon into a saucepan.
8. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat.  Simmer for 5 minutes.
9. Strain the liquid through a sieve, making sure you remove the cloves and the cinnamon sticks (you can set these aside).
10. When the cake is still warm, turn it out onto a plate, drizzle the syrup over and allow it to seep in.  If you’ve made two smaller cake, use some of the syrup on one half of the cake to sandwich the two cakes together.  Drizzle the rest of the syrup over the top of the cake.  If the syrup is not absorbed all at once, you can always set it aside and drizzle some more on later, or you can do what I did today and make a little slit in the top of the cake and pour the rest of the syrup into the hole.
11. When you are ready to serve, pile the cinnamon sticks and cloves on top of the cake for decoration (I didn’t do this because I was too excited about eating it).
12. The book suggests to serve the cake with some soy yoghurt with a bit of ground cinnamon stirred through it.  Personally I don’t think it really needs it as this is a very moist cake.  If anything, the yoghurt will probably tone down the sweetness a bit.

You need to eat this cake with a fork, otherwise it will fall apart in your hands and you’ll end up with very sticky fingers.  It’s very naughty on account of the sugar and the oil… but hey, I’m not having Easter eggs!

Enjoy!  Hope you are having a happy, healthy (within reason!) Easter.

My sister thinks I’m weird!

…or more accurately, she thinks I think I’m a cross between David Bellamy and Beatrix Potter.  I think of myself more of a fatter Barbara Good from The Good LifeFelicity Kendal I will never be, but the sentiment remains.

“I think everybody’s weird. We should all celebrate our individuality and not be embarrassed or ashamed of it.”
Johnny Depp

I don’t think I’m anything, weird or otherwise. I’m me.  Everyone has their own life solution, and this is mine.  Admittedly I was a bit of a numpty in my teens and my twenties, but in my thirties I’m happy to just get on with living.  Life is hard, but you have to embrace it and carve your own path.  Enjoyment and contentment will not come to you.  You have to go out and find it.  It’s not, “What can life offer me?” but, “What can I bring to the party that is life?”.

I believe that everyone has something to bring to this party and every experience you have, good or bad, sets you on your course towards the destiny that you are meant to fulfil upon this earth.

 

 

6 signs you’re totally stressed out (funny)

We undoubtedly live in an era where most conversations with your friends being with, “Oh I’m so stressed!”  The 21st century lifestyle means that everyone will have encountered stress somewhere along the line.  Unless of course you are one of those really annoying types who wears a coat made of Teflon, so the stress just slides right off you.

Stressed out Mary

Stressed out Mary

All of the following are completely true.

1. You arrive at work, take off your coat, make a drink, turn on your computer, read some emails… then a colleague points out that your jumper is in fact inside out.  If you can get away with it, it’s best to pretend that it is supposed to be like that.  Otherwise you look like a complete flake.  You’re sh*t out of luck if said jumper has a huge washing instruction label on it though.

2. Having visited your local purveyor of fine produce and olives in little tubs, you carefully place your very expensive purchases in the boot of your car, ensuring that the olives remain upright, lest they spill their olivey goodness all over the boot (that’s trunk if you’re an American).  Your posh eggs from very happy chickens are reverently placed on the front seat so you can keep an eye on them.  You return your trolley to the bay and leave your handbag, containing your brand new phone and your wallet in the trolley.  Luckily I got it back.  And everything was still inside my wallet.  Honest people do exist… at least they do where I live.

3. You wake up in the morning only to find that during the night you’ve been digging the nails of your left hand into the palm of your right.  The resulting marks take all day to fade.  There is not a lot you can do about this apart from not waving at people across the office because then they’ll realise you’ve been maiming yourself in your sleep (again).  If this becomes a regular occurrence you need to keep your nails short and consider wearing gloves in bed.  Seriously.

4. You forget that you’ve promised to go to Hot Yoga with your Yoga BFF, and now you feel mortified and embarrassed and daren’t phone her because you are a total stressed out mess.  This comes from not really knowing what day it is.  A solution would be to try to keep a paper diary with your appointments in your handbag (providing it has not been left in a supermarket trolley), and then actually LOOK AT IT so you can see where you are supposed to be.

5. Going to bed seems like the best course of action, even though it’s only 3.30pm.  Cuddling up with a good book and the cat at 3.30pm in the afternoon seems like a good idea.  Where do you think I am while writing this?  However, if it happens too often you might need to have a think about why you are in bed.

6. Knocking over a cup of tea results in an apoplectic-raging-beast-screaming-crying-fit that causes you to nearly pass out in anger when you realise that was the last of the milk too.  Birds in trees get scared and take flight.  The cat runs out of the room at top speed, leaving a cloud of fur behind that then floats nonchalantly into the big tea puddle on the floor.  Each and every tiny, simple task just causes you more stress and inconvenience.  And so you sit sobbing in the middle of the kitchen floor, hot tea soaking into your eco-friendly yoga leggings until your poor long-suffering husband/partner/boyfriend concedes that he will go fetch some more milk from the shop.  Anything to get away from the noise!

Now for the serious bit.  If you have symptoms of stress, if you feel out of control, anxious, depressed and/or unable to cope, you need to get some help.  Talking to loved ones, doing something fun, getting a massage and attending a regular yoga class are all things that can help relieve some of the burden you feel you are carrying.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Try a little smile right now… go on, you can do it!