Book Review: Brain over Binge

From the end of April until the end of May I was struggling with some of the most hard-core binge eating I have ever experienced (I know I owe you all a recovery update soon, because I’m now doing pretty well!). Nothing I was doing was improving my situation, meaning that I was ready to try absolutely anything- including buying this book. I had heard amazing reviews, and reports of people stopping binge eating immediately after having finished it. I was not one of those people. I have some severely mixed feelings on this book, and am still not sure entirely what I think of it, so this could be a long review.

Before buying Brain Over Binge I had a good long browse of the responses from readers on Good Reads and Amazon. They were overwhelmingly positive, but a few stood out to me as swinging the opposite way, claiming that the book was frustrating and disappointing, that the author (Kathryn Hansen) lacks the expert knowledge of the functioning of the brain to make the assumptions she makes, that the style of writing is awful, that the writer tells her story in pointless detail- and that the overwhelming message of the book was insulting to those suffering from binge eating. Because the message was : just don’t binge! Now, I don’t entirely agree with these reviews. I didn’t find the style of writing annoying, I found the details of Hansen’s journey interesting, and it was comforting to know someone had gone through close to the same thing as I was in that moment. I know that the author isn’t a brain scientist, but although her book is mainly theory based it does all make sense. She also does signpost the fact that she is drawing on her own experience and rookie research. I thought she had made links between other addictions and their treatment very well. However, I do have to agree with two things:

  • There wasn’t enough advice on handling the urge to binge, and so stopping (I did some research here: Hansen runs a podcast and has numerous blog posts and YouTube interviews, where she addresses additional questions such as these).
  • The “now you know this you can just stop binging” message did bite me in the arse further down the line.

Continue reading “Book Review: Brain over Binge”

Meridian Pistachio, Cocoa-PB and Cocoa-Hazelnut Butters…

IMG_20170506_071355_428Several weeks ago now (okay, bordering on months) I was sent three amazing new nut butters from Meridian. I planned to create recipes with all of them- however you’ll only be seeing recipes for the last two any time soon. Because I ate all of the pistachio jar. However, one empty jar and two half-empty jars does mean I feel qualified to give a pretty accurate review, before we get down to the recipes. Keep your eyes peeled for those in the next few days …

 

Pistachio

I was fairly hesitant to open this one, mainly because I felt like it would be my least favourite. Turned out to be my favourite. It’s a greenish hue, finely ground, and with some oil separation before you stir it (all good nut butters do this, due to the absence of stabilisers, and more nuts in place of them- nuts of course containing oil, which separates out etc etc ). How did I use a whole jar so fast? Mainly by eating it straight off of the spoon, but also dolloped onto porridge or shredded wheat, or mixed with thick Greek yoghurt, frozen raspberries, and honey or maple syrup (that last one is phenomenal). Pistachio butter has a slightly sweet, subtly nutty flavour, with a little saltiness- which you wouldn’t expect from the smell (it doesn’t really smell of anything). Its fairly runny in consistency, and so I feel like it would also work well in marinades for meats such as lamb, or made into a dressing for a couscous salad with pomegranate seeds, orange, and dried fruit in it. I plan on buying another jar very very soon, because I had a lot of recipe plans for this one.

 

Cocoa-Peanut Butter

Possibly my least favourite, not because its bad in any way, but simply because the other two are so amazing. If you love your classic peanut butter, and don’t like to veer too far from this, then a chocolate-flavoured peanut butter is right up your alley. It very thick, making it great straight off of the spoon, and on cereal or porridge, but it also makes it ideal spread onto toast, or a bagel, blended into a smoothie, or used in baking. I’d add it to muffins for sure. Think a grown-up-reeces-cup. Not sickly in any way shape or form, but instead a rich cocoa flavour, with a naturally nutty undertone.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Butter

This came a VERY close second to the pistachio butter. It does taste Ferrero roche-esque too (Instagram followers: you really wanted to know that). This nut butter can be used in all of the ways the cocoa-peanut butter can, but is slightly runnier in texture, and tends to separate out a bit more due to the higher oil content of hazelnuts. This also means it drizzles onto ice cream (and nice cream) really well. The texture is of very finely ground hazelnuts, so its closer to smooth than crunchy. Its also slightly thicker than the straight up hazelnut butter Meridian make, which I liked. Again, really rich cocoa flavour to it. Meridian definitely do chocolate and nuts well.

 

There you have it, my review of the three newest Meridian nut butters. I’d recommend each and every one of them, but as I think the cocoa-hazelnut will generally have the most appeal to people (the pistachio one isn’t as sweet, and is probably more of a love/hate flavour), then I’d say try and get your hands on that one first…

 

Cake Stories: Jesmond’s equivalent to Heaven.

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If you live in Newcastle then chances are you have heard of Cake Stories, on Brentwood Avenue. For my final year of uni I have lived literally seconds from this place, and for a good month (I like to change this up regularly) it was probably my favourite creative writing spot. Tea, cake, creative writing. What more do you need?

Cake stories is adorable. Literally, it makes you want to go ‘awwww!’ every time you walk in. It’s not fluffy and pink by any strength of the imagination, just cozy and welcoming. There is a cabinet of cakes laid on trays at the back of the shop, each cake cut into a square and decorated elegantly. They once made unicorn cake, which I am told was very colourful, but I unfortunately didn’t get to try it. The staff are more than happy to recommend you a cake, because trust me: you will struggle to decide. I recommend the Maple-Pecan, the Red Velvet, Zesty Lemon, Cherry Bakewell, or Mocha. That sounds a lot of options, but there are many, many more than that. They make cake sundaes too. And you can get ice cream with anything. Anything. Cake Stories also serve breakfasts and lunches, including avocado on toast or beans on toast, which are two of my personal favourite options when eating out for breakfast or brunch.

Teas. Cake Stories does tea really well. Try the Cherry-Almond Rooibos (I think that’s what it was called, whatever it was, it was delicious). Expect a cute cup and tea pot, and loose leaf tea- and milk in a miniature milk bottle too. Coffees taste great, and I recommend the cappuccino. Before I leave Newcastle I am determined to get myself an iced coffee from here too, as I hear they are extremely good.

If you can then get yourself to Cake Stories on an evening, then this is when you should go. Most evenings they are open until 9:30pm. At this point the fairy-lights and bulbs hanging from the ceiling are on, and everything becomes 100x cosier- from the massive shelf of tea jars, to the mismatched vintage-y furniture, to the smell of cakes and coffee. A lot of students seem to bring work here on an evening for a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere, or dump the work and come to catch up with friends after a long day. But in-case you can’t get a table, they do cake to go, so there’s really no excuse not to try it.

MULTIPLE Chocolate Bars Review?!

Helloooo chocolate!

I know that it has been quite some time since I posted a review (or anything really- damn you essays!), but today I am making up for that. With a review of not one, but FOUR chocolate bars. I also figured out how to create a little collage of pictures at the top of the post- impressive, no? So, below is a quick review of four different chocolate bars, all of which would probably class themselves as “healthy”. But which ones taste great? I’ll leave links to the places you can buy all of these down below, and leave you to read on, because there is an iced coffee with my name on (literally) in the Starbucks around the corner…

Cavalier Hazelnut Milk Chocolate

RATING: 3/5 stars

This was okay. The chocolate didn’t have a weird aftertaste (which was an issue with two of these bars, as you will see). However, as I’m used to dark chocolate I also didn’t think it tasted of much. It was milk chocolate, but wasn’t super-creamy. Perhaps if you aren’t a dark chocolate or a super-creamy chocolate person you will find your perfect balance here. There are pieces of hazelnut in it, they are evenly distributed- they are also VERY small. However, kudos to Cavalier, there is more hazelnut here than in a bar of dairy milk. Sugar free, which for diabetics or the sugar-conscious is always an upside. It wasn’t the best sugar-free chocolate I’ve had (I love The Lite Company, and Discover for sugar-free), it wasn’t the worst.

Ombar Blueberry & Acai

4/5 stars

This was the highest scoring bar of the bunch. Seriously rich, dark chocolate. Really fruity blueberry-acai taste. Its not one I would be eating all in one go (very often) because of how strongly flavoured it is. This could be an all-time favourite chocolate though. Looking at the ingredients this is suitable for vegans, if you’re a vegan on a chocolate hunt, and love berry flavours. Highly recommend.

Ombar Coconut & Vanilla Centres

3.5/5 stars

I didn’t not like this bar. But it did have a slightly odd aftertaste. The texture though, was amazing. Creamy, smooth, super-decadent truffle-y centre (not too much, not too little for me- though I know some of you may find the amount slightly disappointing, I think it would be too sickly with any more). It’s vegan, so its also obviously dairy-free, in-case this is something that you look for. Intense coconut flavour, slight vanilla undertone. It was okay, but I personally would rather buy a different flavour if purchasing again.

Doisy & Dam Toasted Rice, Maple & Pink Salt

1.5/5 stars

This was the most disappointing chocolate I tried out of all of the bars. I bought Doisy & Dam because it has recently been all over my favourite YouTube and IG accounts. Perhaps it was just this one flavour? There are LOADS of beautiful flavours on the website, and the majority sound very appealing. I only went with this bar because I ADORE salty-sweet, and this was available in a small bar. However, this was both too salty and too sweet. I have no idea how they managed this. I usually LOVE super-dark chocolate, opting for around 80%, so this wasn’t particularly too dark- but it was a bit too bitter for some reason. This could possibly be due to the super-sweet maple and the super-salty pink salt throwing my taste buds off. Disappointing. Still ate it. Still going to try the other flavours- but wouldn’t recommend this one. Coconut & Lucuma, or Goji & Orange, or Lemon, Poppy Seed & Baobab (that’s a white chocolate one) are on my to-try list. Fingers crossed that they taste better than this one.

 

 

Cavalier Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts right here

Ombars right here

Doisy & Dam right here

‘Girl Up’ by Laura Bates: Review

1491131746351It was a toss-up between this, and ‘Everyday Sexism’. This won. And although this is Bates’s second book, I’m glad I’ve had this as my first experience of her work. I mean, it opens with a recommendation from Emma Watson. What more do you need to be sold on this?

If you follow me on IG then you may remember an instastories of this book, and that I felt it should be read in high schools across the nation- it was that good. ‘Girl Up’ is a book aimed at girls, of an age quite a bit younger than me (to be honest though, it filled in parts of my sex education that STILL  had gaps in) -but I don’t think it would harm many boys to read it either. I think that its a really good idea to set reading for our teens when sex education begins. Just two books a year. Maybe only for one year, to get them started on looking into stuff they need to know. One book aimed at boys, one aimed at girls. And here’s the thing: both sexes read both books. Because the more we feel the opposite sex “get us” the easier it is to talk about sex, eradicate sexism, and basically make life a hell of a lot easier. Sexism is a focal point of this book, and sexism affects both sexes- historically, more so women (heads up: there’s a handy little snippet on why its called “feminism” if feminism is all about equality).

This is the thing: in Britain we have a pretty horrific attitude to sex. Sex education is on the same level as talking about haemorrhoids and bowel movements. Which is completely and utterly wrong. The less educated people are the less fun, and the more dangerous/disguising/confusing/embarrassing, sex seems. The more sex is something to be ashamed of, the more likely people are to turn to porn as education. This is in no way a good idea. Mainly because porn does create ideas of “how sex should be”- ideas which are dangerous, disgusting, confusing and embarrassing. Nearly all porn videos make sex into something that degrades instead of empowering women. In a real relationship all parties having sex should feel respected and should be enjoying it. Continue reading “‘Girl Up’ by Laura Bates: Review”

Little’s Coffee Review: French Vanilla, Swiss Chocolate, Rich Hazelnut and Island Coconut Flavours!

wp-1490538662524.jpgToday I am reviewing the instant coffee that rescued the most important relationship in my life so far. Excluding my dog.

I am of course speaking of my relationship with coffee.

A few months ago the unimaginable happened. I went off coffee. I suspect it had something to do with being a bit ill with some kind of infection, dehydrated, and my body telling me to slow down on the caffeine. But my taste buds decided after that after I was well again, we weren’t going to be drinking coffee for a while. Until I found these cool flavours, and began mixing them with 100ml of unsweetened chocolate coconut milk, and hot water- like a much healthier mocha. My taste buds and coffee were reunited. Thank god. Seriously, everyone needs to try the above combination.

I got mine between Holland & Barratt’s and Waitrose, and have waited until I’ve gone through a few jars to cast my judgement. In a nutshell: I am impressed. All of the below flavours taste of what they say on the label, which is some feat even outside of the coffee world. If anyone has ever read a herbal tea packet or the label on a bottle of wine then you’ll know this isn’t always the case (notes of apple and mango my arse Echo Falls).

There’s no added sweeteners, the flavours are all 100% natural, and (if you’re counting) each serving is 4kcal. I pretty much use a ladle to make my coffee so I’m going to disregard that last bit of information.

Now, to the flavours…

French Vanilla – 3.5/5

The most sophisticated flavour I think. Slightly sweet, smells incredible when mixed with chocolate milk to make a vanilla mocha. I feel like this would be great in overnight oats, or used to make affogato (ice cream with coffee poured over the top. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it).

Swiss Chocolate 4/5

I didn’t get a strong chocolate flavour here, though I did have my morning coffee with that unsweetened chocolate milk added, so this is possibly why. All in all, this flavour was more subtle, and simply seemed to bring the smoothness of the coffee out more. If you like subtle then opt for this one over the more out-there flavours (and they make Irish cream flavour, so this selection is pretty vanilla as far as Little’s goes)

Rich Hazelnut 4/5

Slightly sweet, smells amazingly nutty -and almost creamy. It smells like the sugar-free hazelnut syrup at Starbucks, but tastes a hell of a lot better. It tastes how you want Starbucks to taste. Its probably the sweetest of the four I’ve tried, but I adore it- possibly because it isn’t cloyingly sweet. This is fantastic in a banana-nut Frappuccino (200ml unsweetened almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 12g PBFIT or 1tbsp peanut butter of choice, 2tsp this instant coffee, and a dash of cinnamon. Blend. Dance with caffeinated joy).

Island Coconut 4.5/5

Between this and the above I think I’ve found my favourite (how could we guess it would be something nut orientated). The coconut scent of this coffee is AMAZING. It isn’t as strong when you drink the coffee, but it is definitely there in the aftertaste. I actually love that the coffee still comes through, and that Littles managed to achieve such a great balance of the two flavours. I can’t wait to make iced coffee with this one.

 

There we have it, a whistle stop tour of my current coffee obsession. The next flavours on my list to try and get hold of are the Maple Walnut, Amaretto, and Chocolate Caramel. If you’ve tried any of those and want to advise me, then comments are more than welcomed below…

Meridian PB & Coconut and PB & Pumpkin bars review

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If you’re a regular to this blog, then you’ll probably remember- way back- me reviewing the Meridian Peanut, Cashew, and Almond butter bars. And then the Peanut and Cocoa/ Banana/ Berry bars. Well now I’m reviewing the Peanut and Coconut/ Pumpkin Seed bars, because the others have proven so popular than Meridian have decided to expand their collection even further. My favourite before digging into these bars was probably the Peanut & Cocoa, so be sure to try that one as its already stocked in several health food shops, including Holland & Barratt’s. Out of these two newbies I think that the Peanut & Pumpkin Seed has won me over. The coconut one was equally delicious, but the pumpkin seeds just really did it for me. Both are great ideas for a pre/post gym snack on the go, a study snack, or heated up as a dessert with either some of Meridian’s sugar free jam on top, or (personally) I love the Jim Jam’s chocolate hazelnut spread on top…

 

Taste

PB & Coconut- Subtle coconut taste emerges once you’ve chewed it a couple of times, and you get a good coconut aftertaste. Not artificial coconut, just natural coconut flavour. The base is definitely peanut though, and the more savoury taste of this works really well with the sweeter coconut.

PB & Pumpkin- Mainly peanut, but the bits of pumpkin seed add in some earthier flavour. Seeds have a very specific taste that I’m not so great at describing; I feel like pumpkin seeds have a mild, sweetly nutty taste…slightly similar to a pistachio, but not as sweet, perhaps. Again, works really well with the slightly more savoury peanut.

 

Texture

PB & Coconut- The bar has a slightly looser, chunkier texture than the traditional PB bars, which are chewier. Chunks of desiccated coconut, and pieces of peanut throughout are what causes this, and I personally really liked it.

PB & Pumpkin- Much closer to the traditional PB bars. This bar is chewier, with pieces of peanut and whole pumpkin seeds throughout. As this was my preferred texture this was a huge thumbs up from me.

 

Ingredients & Nutritionals

Again, what makes these bars so great for post- workout is the combination of carbs and protein. If you have one of these with a regular skimmed latte or cappuccino then you’re hitting around 14-15g protein with the coconut bar, and 16-17g with the pumpkin seed bar, from just that combination. Your average protein bar/shake is around 20g of protein per serving, and so although this is fractionally lower, its an ideal alternative for anyone wanting an alternative to using protein powders (I know this is my preference, as I’m fussy with protein powders, and they can also be very expensive- though bear in mind the majority of your protein should be coming from a well balanced diet containing whole foods, not a powder or bar). The coconut bar is obviously higher in saturated fat than the pumpkin seed bar, as coconut does contain higher levels of fats, however considering that 20g is the maximum amount per day recommended for a woman I don’t particularly see this as an issue. If you are watching the sat-fat though, then the pumpkin seed bar only has 1.84g of saturated fat. Fats in total though are an asset of these bars, contributing to satiety value and so how full they’ll keep you (don’t shirk fats people).

PB & Coconut- Peanuts (41%), Brown Rice Malt, Coconut (20%), Rice Bran, Rice Protein, Concentrated Fruit Juice (Grape), Rice Starch, Emulsifier: Sunflower Lecithin

kcal- 207.6kcal

fat- 13.44g

sat fat- 5.64g

carbs- 14.28g

sugars- 9.12g

fibre- 1.96g

protein – 6.76g

salt- 0.04g

 

PB & Pumpkin- Peanuts (52%), Brown Rice Malt, Pumpkin Seeds (10%), Rice Bran, Concentrated Fruit Juice (Grape), Rice Starch, Emulsifier: Sunflower Lecithin

kcal- 202kcal

fat- 12.68g

sat fat- 1.84g

carbs- 12.12g

sugars- 7.6g

fibre- 3.6g

protein – 8.04g

salt- 0.04g

 

There you go, my review of the new bars. Massive thumbs up from me, and I cant wait to get some more pumpkin seed bars. As with everything peanut butter (aka. the elixir of life), I encourage you to get your mitts on these if you can. At the moment they’re only stocked online, but hopefully will be coming to stores in the future.

Once you’ve tried them, then let me know: Team Coconut, or Team Pumpkin Seed?