Friday, 30 December 2016

Two low carb Christmas canapes

Well Christmas is now almost over (sob) and I am busy thinking of ideas for tomorrow evening. I shared some ideas for low carb canapes for parties after my little New Year party last year but thought now might be a good time to revisit them. I think at first glance when you think about the festive season and parties your instinct is to think that it's not possible to stay on the wagon and socialise etc at the same time. Now don't get me wrong, there was lots of off plan eating for me this Christmas but I also tried to stay on plan as much as I could, mainly because it's also a time for lots of photo taking and seeing people and I didn't want to balloon just because I'd let everything slip.

When I host parties, which I typically do a few times over the festive period I actually find it quite easy to stay on plan; I make lots of little canapes and nibbly bits and these are actually quite easy to do on a low carb plan. I'm sharing here two which pretty much only really require cucumber and cream cheese and which are amongst my go to ideas when entertaining.
The first one just needs cucumber, cream cheese and you can use pomegranate seeds, though I have't this time. The recipe is a Lorraine Pascale one and you can find it here. Last year I did use the pomegrante seeds and you can see how they looked here. They keep for ages in the fridge so you can make them in advance and whip out once the guests arrive! In the original recipe they peel the cucumber but I don't bother, as I think they look just as nice with skin and it saves time and it less wasteful, the option is there though...
Looking at them now I can see I perhaps did rush them and could have cut them a little straighter, not sure you'd really notice though if they were's being photographed and enlarged on a screen! #lifestooshort
I decorated them with a few snips of chives, edible flowers (more of which below) and some micro leaves. You cam also buy micro cucumbers in a quite a lot of shops now so you could make even smaller versions, though might be a bit fiddly- I'll get back to you on that one!

The second requires only cucumber, cream cheese and a garnish- not essential of course but worth it in my book. Essentially it's not even a recipe, just peel a cucumber lengthways, then place a dollop of cream cheese on one end then roll up and scatter with micro leaves and edible flowers if you have them! FYI I did a post on growing my own microgreens here and plan to do lots more of this in the new year.

Now of course for any festive/ entertaining occasion, edible flowers seem to make everything look better and more polished. Don't be thinking you can only get them in the warmer months, I was sent these beauties from Nurtured in Norfolk and have used them to garnish food and cocktails as well as in ice cubes and they always attract lots of attention and compliments. They last far longer than you'd expect too, especially the more hardy ones like Amaranth which seemed to keep forever!


Sunday, 18 December 2016

Cruelty free Christmas beauty gift guide

In hardly any time now Christmas Day will have already passed and needless to say I still have lots of Christmas gifts yet to buy! I have seen gift guides all over the place (I read a lot of blogs!) but not seen many cruelty free ones so though I'd chip in with my offerings. I think all the beauty brands have upped their game this year and there are some amazing gifts around so if you do stick completely cruelty free the days of obscure hippy brands are over. I've tried to include a few different priced options from a few brands so there should be something for everyone, and these are all readily available in shops so you don't need to worry about missing the last postage dates!

Liz Earle

Liz Earle is one of my go to cruelty free brands, it's ethical and cruelty free but it doesn't feel it. It's And while lots of people have probably tried Cleanse and Polish it might be a surprise to some to try the fragrances.

This fragrance set, beautifully boxed and wrapped with a lovely festive red ribbon, contains three deluxe mini eau de parfums with the idea being that you layer them to achieve your perfect bespoke scent. I love this idea as once you've worked out your perfect formula you can literally own and wear a scent that no one else has.

The second gift is their Superskin hydration heroes.This contains a 30ml face serum and a 50ml moisturiser (you can either choose unscented or Natural neroli), and at £59 but containing £87 worth of products you have enough left over to treat yourself to a new cleanse and polish guilt free! It also comes in a huge, beautifully decorated gift box so definitely feels like a present you'd be very proud to give. Serums are always a great idea, but even more so in winter when cold wind and central heating mean you really have to step the moisturising game up several notches (just me?!)

Neals Yard

Aromatherapy diffusers were pretty much a gamechanger for me in 2016. They release so much more scent than a candle and you can mix the scents up to suit the occasion. I have a few in a couple of different rooms and use them pretty much daily. I have always used the oils in them but recently was introduced to the idea of sing a room spray which opens up the fragrance possibilities even further! You just fill the well with water and the spray about 10 sprays of your fragrance in which then diffuses the fragrance into the room continually and seems to make the spray go so much further. Some of the oils are very subtle and don't obviously smell like fragrances they just make the room smell fresher. Pretty much everyone I know likes their home to smell good so I think this would make a lovely present for most homes.

This aromatherapy gift set is beautifully packaged and would be a joy to open on the big day. It's only £20 but contains 6 products; 3 bath oils and 3 massage oils. They are all highly scented, and a long bath in one followed by a massage with the corresponding massage oil would be pretty much my favourite way to spend an evening.

Failing that, and a very affordable option, everyone would be happy with a big pot of coconut oil, or two- one for the bathroom and one for the kitchen! Its's the perfect stocking filler as it's so versatile whether you prefer it for cooking or removing eye make up, or for the more adventurous among us- oil pulling, no? Look it up! I get through jars and jars of the stuff and would love to open up a new jar of it on Christmas morning!


Last but not least, if you enjoy a pamper session it's pretty hard to beat Lush and nearly everyone I know loves even just walking past their shops as the smell just hits you whenever you walk past. They're gift sets are all wrapped up and ready to go, so make perfect last minute gifts if you're going past a shop.

Most people associate Lush with bath bombs but they do so much more, in fact I prefer to get other things than the bath bombs (though I love those to) as while bath bombs are gone after one bath (or a couple if you're mean like me and only use a small amount at a time, the other products go and go.

They have a huge range of gift sets for a huge range of budgets. I've chosen two here, with one just under £10 and the other just under £14.

Sweet Christmas contains three products; the Rock Star soap, Snow Fairy shower gel (which has the nicest bubblegum scent) and the Snow Fairy body conditioner which is sweet smelling, made from avocado, cocoa butter and mango, and is so hydrating it makes your skin feel amazing!

Ice Ice baby contains two products; the Turkish delight scented Igloo soap and the lemon and bergamot scented Snowman shower jelly- they even suggest you can pop it in the freezer for an extra fresh hit, though at this time of year I think I'll give that amiss and wait til summer!

So, that's the lot! I hope you've seen something here that you fancy? I'd love to hear your favourite cruelty free picks! Have a lovely lovely Christmas and good luck with the rest of your shopping!

** Contains PR samples **


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Pepper and onion shakshuka

I have been meaning to have a go at shakshuka for ages, and while I've made lots of baked eggs, remember this one? I have yet to have a go, until this weekend that is! This is the easiest recipe, made even easier if you have a spiralizer, and it really is delicious- perfect weekend food! One of my favourite things about this dish also is the fact it's a one pan dish, meaning less cooking, you can even eat it from the pan if you'd like cutting down on washing even more!

You will need (makes one skillet to share):
  • 3 peppers 
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 3 eggs 
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • a small handful of pinenuts 
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed herbs, dried of fresh and finely chopped 
  • Basil to serve 
It's also even easier if you have a spiralizer! I use this one
To make it:
  • Chop or even better, spiralize the peppers and onions, you may wish to cut them down the side first so the pieces aren't too long, alternatively just chop them roughly once spiralized. Spiralizing them for this and in general is such a gamechager, especially where the onion is concerned, it's so much quicker and no tears! 
  • Pop some oil in a skillet on a medium heat and let it warm for a few moments 
  • Add the peppers and onions and cook for about ten minutes until soft and reduced 
  • Make a few holes in the peppers using the back of a spoon and crack an egg into each hole. 
  • Allow to cook until the white has all erm whitened!
  • Scatter with the pinenuts and basil, I used microherbs here from Nurtured in Norfolk  but normal herbs would do if you can't find these 
  • Remove and enjoy, best served shared with low carb bread dunked in 


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Eggfast friendly parmesan crisps

It's been a little while since I lat did an eggfast but I feel one is definitely on the horizon. Christmas is now fast approaching and me and Mr Vatkinary have made a vow to lose 1 stone each (14lbs) before Christmas week. This is totally doable but it does mean I need to properly get back on it and a large part of that I think will be via the eggfast which is pretty much my go to diet when things need speeding up in a big way.

After seeing these multiple times online/ Instagram etc and also having them several times in restaurants, I decided to experiment with some Parmesan crisps and I'm never going back. These are literally the easiest ever recipe with a grand total of one ingredient, you can add a couple more but they are entirely optional, and about 2 minutes preparation and just a further 10 minutes of cooking time. You can eat them in lots of different ways, I've shown them here alone, piled high with a filling- I chose eggfast friendly egg salad, then also as a sandwich with egg salad inbetween. I also tried them as little taco shells which I'll show another time very soon!

Without further ado then, you will need (makes 9 large crisps)

  • 50g finely grated Parmesan- another hard cheese will do like Pecorino, look for veggie versions obviously
  • Some garlic powder (optional)
  • Some chives to sprinkle
To make:
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Take a baking sheet and place on a baking tray- no need to oil
  • Use a tablespoon and place heaped spoonfuls of the cheese at equal distances apart
  • Sprinkle with garlic powder (if using)
  • Place in the oven for 10 minutes until they've browned and solidified 
  • Remove, sprinkle with your chives, if using (I used dried ones) and leave to cool for a further 10 minutes 
  • Enjoy either alone, or with dips, or make mini sandwiches... the world is your oyster!


Sunday, 23 October 2016

Avocado buns

When a new trend comes out, once 6-12 months have passed and everyone has done it and it's no longer fashionable or new anymore, I tend to hear about it and get involved. This happened with skinny jeans which I detested and mocked for months before noticing that everyone was wearing them and they actually looked nice, and it's just happened again with avocado buns which a few months ago were something I screenshotted on Instagram and now appear on restaurant menus.
In that vein, then, I couldn't help but jump on the bandwagon and have a go myself. They're pretty easy to make, mainly because as long as you can peel and avocado and cut it in half, you've basically done it!
They're also, pretty disappointing, they really aren't a substitute for a burger bun, there's no way on earth you can eat one like you would a burger, avocados are pretty soft and it will slip and slide and disintegrate if you clasp it and try to eat it like a burger, plus it's much, much too tall! Also, even being a mammoth avocado like me, let's face it, if you're eating a burger, an avocado isn't really going to cut it as a bread substitute! If you're truly avoiding the bread then I'd sooner make buns out of my low carb bread recipe, or even shape the cauliflower crust pizza mix into bun shapes and use that.
I gave one a try without much though about what to put in it which was my first mistake but to be honest it didn't for me make much difference as in the end it was far too awkward to eat it as an actual burger so once I'd photographed it for here I chopped it up and ate it as a salad, which my fillings were just perfect for. I guess you could fill it with an actual (veggie) burger but again I think you'd be taking it apart before eating it.
I'll talk you through how I did mine, though they are pretty self explanatory!

  1. Take an avocado that you're pretty sure is in perfect condition and at the perfect stage of ripeness, it's going to need to look good as, let's face it, the very point of having one is to photograph it!
  2. Cut it in half, though not lengthways as you usually would, but the other way
  3. Peel it,  taking great effort not too mark it too much as you do, because, photo
  4. Cut a little piece off the bottom so it has a flat bottom and will stand up independently
  5. Prepare your fillings, I just sliced an onion and tomato but next time I'll be slightly more experimental
  6. Pop the first piece on the bottom, then add your fillings, then pop the top piece on
  7. Sprinkle sesame seeds on, if you have them, I didn't!
  8. Take photo's, post them on Instagram, then dissemble, cut up and eat, as there's no way you'll be able to eat it normal burger style!
If you do give it a try I'd love to know what you think, did you eat it like a burger? Do you think I've been a bit harsh? Is this an Instagram fad that'll just blow over?

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Cruelty free beauty - & Other Stories

It's been a little while since I posted, and even longer since I posted a beauty post. I've had these for ages, I picked them up in the sale at & Other Stories a while ago, and forgot all about them until I found them while unpacking the other day, yes I'm still unpacking despite moving months ago!

& Other Stories, from what I can gather, is a reasonably new addition in the UK, but I love it. I don't have very way out/ experimental fashion tastes and always prefer pretty plain, neutral pieces, and this shop is full of those! Plus it sells everything from clothes, candles, shoes, jewellery, bags, and of course beauty, including makeup so you can do a pretty comprehensive shop while you're in there!


Monday, 19 September 2016

Watermelon ice lollys in Majorca

We've just got back from the most wonderful and overdue holiday to Majorca

A week of relaxing, paddleboarding, sunbathing, eating, drinking and laughing with friends.

Now granted I didn't stay low carb for the holiday, far from it, there was lots of sangria, ice cream and a few odd pizzas. And by lots of sangria, I mean lots!

This discovery was our saviour in the 30 odd degree heat, they're really easy to make and are so refreshing. Now I know watermelon isn't super low carb but it's pretty good as fruit goes with 8g per 100g- the actual melon is quite light once you remove the skin which you don't eat.

I can't take the credit for the idea, I'd seen them doing the rounds on Instagram, in particular Secret Squirrel food posted one that inspired me to give them a go.

Anyway to make them you hardly need a recipe:

  • Cut your watermelon into small triangles, the usual way, or buy them ready prepared if you're feeling decadent!
  • Use a sharp knife to cut a small slit in the middle of the hard skin
  • Push a lollypop stick into the hole 
  • Place in the freezer and leave for at least 4 hours, I made a lot in one go so they lasted for days
  • Remove and enjoy!
  • For added yummness, we melted some sugar free chocolate and waited until it was starting to cool and harden then poured that over the top before sprinkling with some sea salt. This is optional of course but does taste amazing!

Excuse the intermittent photo quality, some of these are iPhone shots, I was mostly taking a complete blogging break while away!

Hope you're all enjoying the last days of summer! See you soon and let me know if you try these!


Sunday, 11 September 2016

Low carb paella- HelloFresh recipe box

We've been travelling quite a lot recently and to counter the usual rush to the supermarket to stock our fridge on our return I've found the most fabulous discovery... Recipe boxes have been doing the rounds for a while now but I've never been that tempted, mainly because they can be quite pricey and I wasn't sure I'd like my meals each week dictated by someone else. I do like the idea of the measured out ingredients as we do have a fair amount of waste in our house, I'm sad to say, and also like the convenience of having a large insulated box of goodies waiting for me when I get home from work. Mostly of course, I try to follow a low carb lifestyle and of course the box contents are not targeted to that way of eating, though I pride myself on being able to adapt most meals, and of course I'm not the only person eating in this household.

Recently we dabbled with a HelloFresh box, being delivered the day we returned from holiday and it was such a welcome convenience to have everything ready and portioned without having to leave the house. Even more welcome was having the ingredients to make a veggie paella as we'd just returned from Spain, so it was like extending the holiday just a little longer! The recipe immediately caught my eye, as it was the lowest in carbs and was also gluten free, lactose free, vegan, low in calories (390 calories).

The full nutritional information for each recipe is included on the recipe cards and though you wouldn't expect it, the paella was actually very low in carbs, especially for a dish that's centred around a carbohydrate, there's only 14g per portion, and having made it now, I would definitely attempt it again, and might even try it using cauliflower rice for a meal that would be super low in carbs!

Everything comes perfectly portioned, even the spices, which was rather wonderful as I'm never too sure how much to put in, and always feel a bit nervous about using the spices in my cupboard as most of them are rather old!

Even though we'd been in Spain for the previous week, I hadn't actually managed to get any paella as I was the only vegetarian there and it never quite felt right to ask people to forgo the fish as that's most people's favourite parts, so it was the perfect meal to come home to. Furthermore. it was topped with samphire, which is one of my favourite vegetables, and one we've even started foraging for now we live near the coast!

Anyway, the paella was a huge hit, packed with flavour and so easy to make, and, like I said, I'm going to have a stab at an even lower carb version with cauliflower rice which I'll share if I manage to get right. Packed with lots of fresh veggies, as well as paprika, turmeric, olives, roasted tomatoes, chervil, garlic and lemon, and topped with delicious salty samphire, my paella envy from watching my friends in Spain soon disappeared!

I'll be back and posting much more regularly from now on, and have lots of new cruelty free beauty picks I've been dying to share with you, so I'll see you very soon!

In the meantime you can find HelloFresh here, their recipes change each week and you can find out what's coming up on their site. If you want me to share the paella recipe let me know in the comments. Have you tried a recipe box? 

* Contains PR samples 
© The Vegetarian Atkins Diary

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