Sunday, 22 November 2015

Tennis Elbow & Not a Racket in Sight

I've suffered with Tennis Elbow for nearly three years and within that time I have had about 3 months respite when I was given a steroid injection. During those three months I was a new woman! Living with pain is hard, I'm normally an upbeat person who is always smiling and rarely down. Don't get me wrong like most of us, I do have down days but it doesn't take much to shift my mood. After those wonderful three months the pain came back, it had intensified and no ice pack was going to alleviate the pain. So, with a heavy heart, I went back to the doctors and had another steroid injection. This time it didn't work!

I was in more pain than ever I couldn't believe it. I was prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs, rest (like, how can I rest my right arm when I'm right handed), ice packs and pain relievers. The pain was dulled but it never went away, I was becoming irritable, I was down in the dumps and my smile had disappeared. Typing, lifting anything, walking Marco, gardening were all things that I wanted/needed to do but made the pain worse. I wake up every morning with stiffness in my elbow joint and I can't fully extend my forearm. Typing this has taken me ages and I have done it in short bursts. I nearly didn't publish it but if anyone else out there is suffering I want them to know they are not alone and we can work through the pain and get our lives back on track.

I didn't think the pain could get any worse, but I had no idea what was round the corner. I tolerated the pain in my elbow, and I found ways of doing daily tasks differently, I was pleased with myself, I was coping. As I type that it sounds ridiculous but it was true I was coping, that's not living is it? But I had found ways to carry on doing the things I loved doing, like my allotment. That's where my smile came back I was in my allotment oasis away from the daily grind of work and suffering. It was my little piece of heaven, where I could escape, I carried on gardening and even found ways of digging without causing more pain to my elbow! I can even write with my left hand now, OK it's not neat but you can read it! I was back in control and I shoved two fingers up to pain!

It was during those fabulous days down the allotment that I started to suffer with back pain too, I put it down to the digging on my allotment. I wasn't doing much at all just a little bit here and there and probably no longer than 10-15 minutes at a time. I was lucky as it was harvest time so most of my time was collecting the produce I had grown, which did involve stretching to reach the tops of my bean poles!

The back pain worsened and I suffered with sciatica, it was excruciating but I soldiered on telling myself that there were plenty of people far worse off than me and I was one of the lucky ones. I was constantly going to the doctors and he sent me for an MRI scan. I wasn't expecting it to show anything I just thought I was going through a painful patch! It showed that I had a prolapsed disc and that my nerve was being trapped which was causing the sciatica. No more digging!

To make matters worse I was suffering with some side effects of the drugs I had been prescribed. Enough was enough I stopped taking the drugs and decided I was going to take matters into my own hands. The side effects slowly disappeared as the drugs left my system but the pain was heightened. I can't go on coping like this I had to do something. I want my life back, yes, I'm not suffering as much as others are, I'm luckier than a lot but I wasn't living I was coping.

My aromatherapy is helping a little, I'm using avocado oil with a few drops of essential oils, black pepper, peppermint and rosemary and massaging it into the effected area. I also use a peppermint spray to 'cool' down the area. Even though I am a great believer in aromatherapy I knew I had to do more.

I have been doing a lot of research and I have bought a lot of books, which I'm working my way through. I believe that by making changes in my diet I can help myself more. Now, don't panic I'm still vegan, nothing will change that! I've decided to cut out all refined sugar, yes, all of it! Yes, it's hard extremely hard especially when you're knackered and in pain but I know it WILL be worth it! Sugar is the number one inflammatory food so it makes sense to remove refined sugar from my diet.

I'm only eating whole foods or clean foods so all that processed vegan food is a no no, but I will allow myself it occasionally, everything in moderation. I need to be extremely organised to stay on track. Every Sunday I prepare for the week ahead, yes, it takes time but its definitely worth the effort when you come home after a busy day at work and haven't the energy or are in too much pain to cook from scratch.

Most days I start with a smoothie packed full of anti-inflammatory foods, for lunch I have a whole grain with roasted veggies or salad and a dip or pate to keep it interesting, normally my beloved houmous with added turmeric. To finish the day off I have another wholegrain made into something delicious. Today I am going to share with you my favourite smoothie recipe at the moment.


100-150ml coconut water,
depending on how thick you
like your smoothies

1 Orange freshly squeezed
1/5th of a fresh pineapple
1 Banana
1 Medjool date, stone removed
Handful of spinach/Kale*
Handful of frozen raspberries*
Handful of frozen blueberries*
1 Tbsp Chia/Flax/Hemp seeds

*Grown by me!

Place the ingredients in your blender in the order above and whiz until you have a thick and glorious smoothie. My vitamix is fabulous for this as frozen fruit is no problem. Don't panic you won't even taste the spinach and it doesn't really change the colour of the smoothie either it just makes it more an intense colour.

Background to the ingredients used

Tennis elbow occurs as a result of tiny tears in the surrounding tendon and muscle coverings. Once the initial injuries heal, the tears repeat. These injuries leak out a protein called collagen, which in turn leads to inflammation.

Pineapples, Oranges and raspberries are all high in vitamin C, which contributes to cell growth and repair. They are also high in vitamin A which helps build collagen with tendons and other connective tissue. Pineapples also have an enzyme called bromelain, which is great to reduce swelling. Raspberries, blueberries and spinach also have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Bananas will help keep you fuller for longer as they help control your blood sugars, so no need to reach for the vegan biscuit tin mid morning! They also have high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin, which helps to elevate your mood.

Increasing your intake of food that is rich in omega 3 fatty acids is also advised which will also help reduce the inflammation and provide pain relief. Chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds are all fantastic vegan foods which are high in omega 3's.

Put all these ingredients together and you have a fabulous tasting smoothie which is helping you to heal!

Jasmine x

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Vegan Eats in Chester

My work week this week has been a short one as I had taken a couple of days off and believe me I could get used to working three days a week! On Thursday my friend and I had planned a day out in Chester. Can you believe it, I'd never been been to the actual town itself before. I had visited the outskirts before albeit over 20 years ago and walked down by the river but never ventured into the town and the shops! So as you can imagine I was looking forwards to it.

Unfortunately I hadn't managed to research where to eat which is always a worry for me! I do get very grumpy if I'm hungry! So, before I set off to pick my friend up, I took to twitter and asked for advice on vegan eateries in Chester. And twitter didn't let me down. As soon as we arrived we did a quick recky of the options that had been tweeted, to see what took our fancy. 

The hands down winner without a shadow of doubt was Yo! Sushi, but at the end of this post are some of the other places we checked out! 

Yo! Sushi wasn't recommended to us but when I saw it memories of a Japanese restaurant in Darwin came flooding back to me and I remembered that there were a fair few vegan dishes on the menu. So we entered to see what they had in store....

Yo! Sushi is a Japanese restaurant chain that delivers food to cutomers via a conveyor. It was founded in 1997 and its first restaurant opened in Soho, London. Since then it has a number of restaurants around the world, the first restaurant outside London opened in Birmingham in September 2003. 

What is super exciting about this restaurant chain is that the vegan choice is absolutely amazing! Why I have not come across this before now is beyond me! But now I have found it I will be back for more and more and more and more! Birmingham here I come.

The restaurant in Chester is utterly brilliant and the staff there are fabulous and extremely helpful, which made the experience of eating there even more amazing. Becca, Bexx and Kat were great and here they are posing for a photograph!

Bexx, Becca and Kat
The restaurant itself is extremely clean and from what I could see after each dish was made there was a big clean up. In this place you certainly don't have to worry about food contamination. Even the toilets had a self cleaning handle! I know! How cool is that!

Each dish is presented in a dish or on a plate which is colour coded and the colour depicts the cost, so easy! They have 8 different prices, starting with all green plates costing £2, blue plates £2.70, purple £3.60, orange £4.10, red £4.50, grey £5, yellow £6 and white (their Sumo size bowls) £8.

We were really fortunate too, as on Thursday they were sharing their 'Blue Monday' offer where 40 dishes were at the blue dish price - bargain! To make it even more fabulous all of the vegan dishes were on there! Can you see why I was so excited to be dining there?

As I said the vegan options are amazing here and Bexx brought out their nutritional and allergy booklet so I could see which dishes were suitable for me. I really was astounded at how many I could eat. It was a good job I was hungry as I ordered so many different dishes, all in all I ordered 8 dishes but I did share some of them!

On each table are taps to help yourself to still or sparkling water and if I remember correctly they were £1.70 each but you can have unlimited refills. Also on the table was the obvious wasabi paste, pickled ginger and soy sauce.

To start us off we had the aubergine salad and the Kaiso salad, which is sesame marinated Japanese seaweed, edamame, carrot and su-miso and absolutely delicious as was the aubergine salad. We could have easily tucked into another one but we didn't dare as so many other dishes were on there way!

Next up were inari pockets, and if you love tofu you will love these, they were soy bean curd pockets filled with rice, delicious dunked in soy sauce.

I seriously could have eaten more of the inari, so simple but yet so delicious but I needed room for the other dishes heading my way. Next up Vegetable Yakisoba, noodles with Asian vegetables in a mild tangy sauce, yet again utterly delicious. At the same time two other dishes arrived, Vegetable Gyoza, vegetable dumplings with soy & vinegar sauce and Vegetable Tempura. By this time I was in food heaven I'm actually surprised I managed to take photographs!

The Tofu Katsu Curry was the next dish I delved into, the fresh tofu was deep fried in Panko breadcrumbs which sat on a bed of rice. It was topped with curry sauce and sliced spring onions. You can order this dish as a Suma dish if you wanted a larger portion too. I prefer the smaller portions because you can have more of them! The tofu melted in your mouth and the curry sauce wasn't too hot and very flavoursome. I was making a lot of mmmmm noises.

Last but by no means least was the pumpkin Katsu, which was also deep fried in breadcrumbs. I left this dish till last as pumpkin is sweeter then most of the dishes I ordered so to me it was my dessert. Once again it was utterly delicious and looked extremely pretty.

So 8 dishes later and I was stuffed! I've been asking myself which dish was my favourite but I change my mind every minute. Every dish I ordered was to die live for, and each dish was a taste sensation. Hats off to Yo! Sushi for your vegan creations and I can't wait to return for another visit. During my next visit there will be dishes I haven't tried yet so I'm looking forward to it already.

A massive thank you to Bexx who made our visit an exceptional experience, she couldn't have been more helpful and was extremely knowledgeable with all the dishes.

I got talking to Kat after our meal, the branch manager and I've persuaded her that the next venue should be my home town Stafford, so fingers crossed sometime in the future a Yo! Sushi will open here and you won't be able to keep me out of there!

Whilst I was in Chester I couldn't leave without visiting another recommendation from a fellow tweeter. I had to call into Chester Health Store and say hi to Nicki. Nicki has an absolutely gorgeous shop which offers a wealth of herbal supplements and health food options. Nicki has over 20 years experience in the world of health, nutrition and supplements and can help you choose the most appropriate product for you. I couldn't leave without stocking up on my nutritional yeast! I also treated myself to a small vegan chocolate bar - cheeky! If you're visiting Chester then do pop in and say hi, I'm pretty sure you will find whatever you're looking for in there. Plus the shop is gorgeous! Thanks for the recommendation Katy!

Other vegan eateries in Chester 

Katy from Lil' Miss Meat Free told me that Carluccio's has a vegan menu! So we headed straight there to check it out. Carluccio's is an Italian restaurant that is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves quality, authentic Italian food. It also has a foodshop so you can buy some of the Italian loveliness to take home. 

The vegan menu didn't offer many choices but the food did look very tasty and you can have any of the vegetable risottos tweaked to be vegan friendly, and there were two, mushroom or butternut squash. So if you fancy some Italian food then this is the place for you. 

Sarah told me all about Hanky Panky Pancakes too, they can make you a vegan buckwheat pancake and you can choose your filling. Now our intention was too come here for dessert after Yo! Sushi as this place looked so darn cute! But unfortunately our eyes were far bigger than our bellies and we ate far too much at Yo! Sushi. A visit here will have to wait until my next trip to Chester. *Sigh*

Rose and VBitesBrighton both told me about the Holland & Barrett More Store which is a super store in Chester and they have a massive selection of vegan products from food to toiletries and more. Quite recently Heather Mills started a partnership with Holland and Barrett and opened a third VBites cafe within the Chester store. The food sold in the VBites cafe is mainly mock meats (which I'm not a massive fan of) but they also sell gooey brownies, cake and according to Rose do an amazing hazelnut milk late!

Jasmine x

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Chikas Review

Some time ago now I was sent three Chikas products to review and I've held off my post as I wanted to make a peanut stew with one of the products. After a lazy weekend fighting off my cold and actually getting creative in the kitchen I'm ready to share my review with you, finally! But first what did they send me:
  • West African Peanuts
  • Plantain Crisps
  • Smoked Almonds
Chika's website is extremely informative and she advises that she "set out to create something that was defined by more that just a delicious product". Chika wanted us to "experience a journey to a beautiful and exotic part of the world" that is close to her heart.

Smoked Almonds

My favourite item without a shadow of doubt was the packet of smoked almonds! I love almonds and the flavour of these nuts were heavenly, they were absolutely gorgeous. As you can imagine they didn't last long! 

They had just enough coating without being overpowering. You could taste the smoked paprika and a hint of heat came through with the black pepper.

Chika doesn't use any artificial flavouring or colouring and these smoked almonds are a great source of protein and vitamin E.

Almonds, rapeseed oil, salt, dextrose, rice flour, sugar, yeast powder, yeast extract powder, smoked paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, smoke flavouring, paprika and citric acid.

Plantain Crisps

I've only ever tried plantain once before and that was at the West Midlands Vegan Festival last year! It was served with a chick pea curry and callaloo and I really enjoyed it!

I couldn't wait to try the plantain crisps as I hadn't eaten plantain since the vegan festival. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't what I tasted. Don't get me wrong they were tasty! 

Plantains are naturally sweet which hadn't come across in the meal above (or my memory has let me down) probably as it was served with curry. The plantain crisps were crunchy like you would expect, sweet and savoury thanks to the sprinkling of salt. The ingredients list contained three items that's all! Plantain, sunflower oil and salt so you definitely know what you are getting here.

Chika also makes plantain crisps that have a hint of chilli and I think I would prefer them, they still only have four ingredients the same as above with the addition of chilli.

West African Peanuts

The packet I received had the skins on but you can buy them without skins. The skins don't bother me in the slightest though, in fact you get an extra dosage of antioxidents.

I'm not a massive fan of peanuts but this little packet changed my mind. I loved them, it was so hard not to eat the entire packet there and then, but I'd promised myself I would turn them into a peanut curry one night!

Chika advises that these nuts are dried under the African sun before hand toasting over a wood fire, no oil is used in the toasting process. Chika goes on to say most roasted nuts on the market use oil perhaps this is whay I favoured these nuts to any other? 

Chika says that their distinctive and rich flavour is down to the way they are made. A massive thumbs up for these nuts from me!

Chika has other products too including chick pea crisps and black pepper cashews which I'd love to try.

Jasmine x

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Vegetable Fermentation Workshop


How have you been celebrating? Me? I've been chilling out, too exhausted to do anything else! I'm still managing to fight off the cold that everyone has, so rest and relaxation is what is in order. I've been surrounded with people who have colds and chest infections so how have I managed to fight it off? I believe a lot of that has to with my diet and being vegan, so another plus to a vegan llifestyle, the other reason is my beloved aromatherapy.

As I've been chilling rather than celebrating I thought I'd share with you something I did last month which was new and exiting, I went on a vegetable fermentation workshop which was awesome! Yes I made some Kraut!

Emma from Wild Pickle runs the events, and teaches you how to make and experiment with kraut. Emma also holds Kefir workshops and I will be attending one of those very soon. She is extremely knowledgeable and is happy to answer any of your questions.My friend "the gardening angel" couldn't believe how healthy and vibrant Emma's skin was, Emma is a great advert of vegetable fermentation! The workshops are fun and relaxed and you get to make your own Kraut. 

Emma supplies everything you need including local organic vegetables from which you can choose from to pair with your cabbage. You don't need to take anything with you, Emma has it sorted including handouts so you don't forget what to do. Emma is full of energy and extremely passionate about health and well being from the inside out. I was amazed to find out that we have around 500 species of bacteria in our gut all doing different jobs and weighing in at about a kilo!

I paired my cabbage with onion, garlic, red pepper and oregano. Here's me massaging the ingredients, and yes those are my hands on Emmas website too!

As you can see the bowl was completely full with ingredients but it didn't take long before I had a pool of liquid and I was able to stuff the mixture into my jar.

Emma made one with carrots, onions and fennel seeds (I think), my friend the gardening angel made hers with onion, garlic, ginger and carrot.

We used the heart of the cabbage to force the mixture under the brine

And the finished result....

I've left it on the kitchen worktop for two weeks as Emma advised and then put it in the fridge for another month and I'm going to open mine on Wednesday! That'll be exactly 6 weeks since I made it and I can't wait!

If you've never tried kraut before then give it a go it's extremely good for you and if you're local why not attend one of Emma's workshops.

Jasmine x