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Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Middle Eastern Inspired Chickpea Pilaf

Hi Friends, how are you?

It's been a long time since I uploaded a recipe on here as to be honest, I haven't had a wave of inspiration or creativity in the kitchen for a long time - until now.. thanks mum!

A lot of the dishes I make tend to use similar spices but this chickpea pilaf is such a welcome change to my norm. The warming infusion of cinnamon really bring this to life and the creamy cashews are just divine! I have started making this in bulk portions for my boyfriend and I to eat for a few days at a time and he actually likes to add extra protein such as chicken or salmon to it when he takes it to work for lunch (I love it just as it is though!) It could also be frozen in batches too if you wished as all the ingredients freeze really well.

Middle Eastern Inspired Chickpea Pilaf - the easiest one pot dinner

Ingredients:
Makes around 5-6 main meals or even more if pairing with animal protein
Note - you will need a large pan with a lid for this one pan dish, especially if you are making extra for multiple meals!
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I use EVOO)
  • 1 white onion, diced 
  • 2 big cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 3 bay leaves 
  • 2 handfuls of raw cashews (unsalted)
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 courgette, sliced into half moons
  • 1/2 cup fennel, sliced 
  • 2 cups of baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach 
  • 1 tbsp tamari (can sub for soy sauce if you don't have tamari)
  • 1 veg stock cube

Method:
  1. Place the rice in a sieve and thoroughly rinse under fresh running water 4-5 times until the water runs clear. Dissolve the stock cube in the 4 cups of water and then add in the washed and drained rice. Set aside to soak.
  2. Heat 1tbsp of oil to the pan and then add in the onion and sauté until they have softened and browned
  3. Then add in the garlic, cinnamon, bay leaves, cashews, chilli powder and black pepper. Continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes or until the cashews have become slightly toasted and the spices have become fragrant.
  4. Then add in the courgette, fennel, tomatoes and chickpeas. Continue to sauté for a further 5-8 minutes until the tomatoes have become nice and juicy. 
  5. Add the rice with the stock and water to the pan and bring to the boil. Place the lid on the pan and reduce to a simmer for 20-25 minutes. Note - check the package instructions for your rice as quick cook rice will often cook in just over 15 minutes, especially as we have soaked it for 15-20 minutes already.
  6. Once the rice is cooked, give everything a good stir and make sure all the water has been absorbed. 
  7. Stir in the spinach, tamari and remaining tbsp of olive oil
  8. Serve either on it's own (my preference!) or with your choice of animal protein

Enjoy,
Jess x
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Tuesday, 11 December 2018

My Vegan Food Guide to Dubai

I have always had a huge affinity with Dubai since visiting with my family when I was younger. However, since my diet took a huge plant-based shift in January 2018 and one of my best friends moved out to Dubai a few years ago, I have seen a side to this city-state that I'd never explored before - the ever-expanding range of vegan eateries (and ofc, matcha spots).  

Wild & The Moon


FOOD
With a lot of the restaurants in Dubai, they aren't solely vegan eateries as you often get in London. The plant-based options are usually a section of a menu, which I actually highly rate because it doesn't put off non-vegan friends or family from joining you. They can either choose a totally non-vegan meal or choose a plant-based meal and add animal protein if they so wish. 


1. Surf Cafe
Dreamy chickpea omelette
This has to rate as one of the best vegan brunches I've ever had. I ordered the chickpea 'omelette', which in itself I thought was wonderfully original. It was filled with sliced avo, a delicious EVOO, sauteéd kale, spring onion and courgette. It came with a side of roasted toms and rye bread with an olive tapenade. I then ordered extra thyme roasted mushrooms, which were just fabulous. 

I didn't get a close up of the food here because I was too excited to dig in, sorry. You'll have to make do with the photo of my face and just trust me, it was amazing.

My friend ordered the açai bowl, which looked equally as delicious. It was made of pure açai rather than being blended with another fruit, which I thought was quite unusual (as most açai bowls are more banana 'ice cream' than açai). It looked wonderfully thick, rather than a sloppy mess (the latter being the worst form of açai IMO). She thoroughly enjoyed it and said it was one of the best açai bowls she'd had too. Maybe I'll have one for dessert next time lols.  



2. Amongst Few

Amongst Few: one and a half savoury brunches for me ty
We'd been eying up this brunch on Instagram for a while and it didn't disappoint in taste. We both ordered the roasted portobello mushrooms topped with a chickpea scramble, hash browns, sauteéd sweet potato, greens and half an avo filled with balsamic, soy and EVOO. My only criticism is that it wasn't big enough! 

Luckily my friend has more of a sweet tooth and adored the vegan GF pancakes so not only did I eat my breakfast, I also ate just over half of hers as well lol. The pancakes weren't to my taste. I found them a bit sticky and chewy with a bitter aftertaste from whichever flour they used. However, if your diet is strictly GF then they may suit your palate better than mine. Tbh it just made me question again why the hell people go GF when they don't need to.. I'd trade those pancakes in for all the gluten any day.








3. Gourmet by Kcal
This restaurant is situated inside Le Meridien Hotel. It has a huge range of nutrient dense food options and a whole plant based section, so don't be fooled by the menu online - it's very different . The vegan  section had delicious options such as black bean burgers and butternut squash risotto. However, I actually went for a teriyaki salmon Buddha bowl bc I was feeling like all the veggies. Even though I am around 95% plant based, I do like to keep my omega 3 intake up with salmon once a week too. Before the vegans kick off, I know you can get vegan omega 3, but they're not as easily absorbed as the ones found in oily fish and I'm not ashamed to say I do still love salmon. It's for this reason I'd never label myself vegan either. 

Anyway, back to the food in question. It was absolutely delicious! The veg had so much flavour and the salmon was cooked to perfection. They had some incredible seasonings on the table including a smoky salt and sumac, which totally transformed the dish even further! 


We shared a vegan mezze platter too, which had some lovely dips on such as roasted red pepper & walnut, creamy hummus and moutabel. We also ordered extra grilled veggies and a side of air fried sweet potato fries. The veggies were amazing but the fries weren't crispy at all - rather limp in fact. They also had a strange coating on them, which tasted odd (I still ate them tho so they can't have been all that bad. I just wouldn't order them again). They'd be much better off as a crispy wedge IMO. On the whole though, a delicious meal with loads of healthy options to suit all types of diet and tastes. 



4. Projeto Açai

The homemade walnut granola was a game changer! 
We stumbled across this place on our quest for good açai and definitely succeeded here. They have two locations - one in the marina and one on Sheikh Zayed Road, DIFC. We visited the latter and went for smaller açai bowls because we were training in an hour so didn't want anything too large. 

They have an absolutely huge menu, which is extremely vegan-friendly. It includes everything from your classic avo on toast to sandwiches on homemade wholewheat sunflower bread and even poké bowls (they do a vegan tofu poké bowl so I would definitely return to try that - yum). 


The açai bowls are made from açai blended with mango, which I thought was a beautiful collaboration of flavours. It was just the right balance of sweetness and wasn't as overbearing as açai blended with banana (which is what I have eaten in 99.9% of other açai bowls). My pet peeve is runny açai/banana ice cream bowls but this was the most perfect consistency! I ordered mine topped with fresh berries and a homemade walnut granola, which was absolutely delicious. I'd highly recommend this place and can't wait to return. My only dilemma would be açai or poké..?! I think I'll just get both. 



5. Wild & The Moon

Average matcha bowl accompanied by friggin' phenomenal matcha latte
Keeping up the açai theme, the specialty of Wild & The Moon are their bowls. This ranges from açai bowls, matcha bowls (I KNOW!), power bowls (which are made of a banana and apple pudding), porridge and granola bowls. 

I was super excited to try their açai bowl, however, even though they had açai in stock, they couldn't use it..?! The exact reason for this definitely got lost in translation so we just accepted our açai loses and opted for the matcha bowls. Tbh I was actually 50:50 on whether I was going to choose açai or matcha bc of my obvious love of the latter. So the waiter chose for me by eliminating all açai possibilities but I really wish he hadn't..


The matcha bowl was literally just a runny bowl of banana ice cream - you now know how much I dislike both overly powerful banana flavour and runny bowls. This was both of those things, sadly. The saving grace was that we changed our toppings from banana (why TF do they need more banana?!) to granola, frozen bloobs and desiccated coconut. The granola saved the day - when does granola not save the day though, let's be honest. 


The highlight of this visit was the velvety matcha latte, but more detail of this in the matcha section..! Their juices and nut mylks also looked delicious so I would pick one up to try next time. Matcha latte and a juice - maybe it's somewhere I'd go for a liquid snack lols (unless they figure out how to make an açai bowl again ofc). 




MATCHA


Wild & The Moon 
This was hands down my favourite matcha in Dubai. It is made with their creamy homemade almond mylk (just look at that above photo in the food section!) and spirulina, funnily enough. I personally love spirulina and couldn't taste it so thought it was a fantastic nutrient boost to add to the drink. I asked for it without the syrup as I don't like overly sweet things, especially not overly sweet matcha and it was just perfect. Creamy, frothy, great quality matcha and yeah, I'm drooling at the thought of it again..! 10/10 from me.


Flow

Homemade almond mylk matcha 
This beautiful little spot is set within Jumeirah Emirates Towers.  

I opted for homemade almond mylk in my matcha, which was delicious. It did separate a bit so needed a continual stir, which is always mildly annoying. However, it tasted fabulous. 


We only went for matcha/coffee but glanced at the menu and it actually looked really good. There were several vegan options such as waffles, oats, toasts, desserts and salads. They also had warm mains such as GF VG pasta if that's your kinda thing. I also loved the idea of the 'milk taps'. You could order coffee or granola and help yourself to either soy or dairy options, which I thought was quite cute. 







Arabica

This was a very surprising find within Dubai Mall! Arabica is a large chain of coffee shops with branches all over the globe; six of them being in UAE. I always thought they were a chain dedicated to coffee. However, by chance we wandered in for a shopping break and I found a matcha..! 
The only sugar free plant-based milk option was soya milk so I opted for that and it was surprisingly good! 


I wouldn't venture out of your way to try the matcha here but if I was out and about and passed an Arabica store then I would definitely get one again. It's good but not so good you'd travel for it. 

It's also handy to know that in a place that does great coffee (or so I'm told), there is a matcha option for those that want it.



What didn't make the cut?

Comptoir 102
Smaller than the size of my palm (and I have small hands)
Now, this was probably the biggest disappointment of all my food experiences. Hyped up to be one of the best healthy eateries in Dubai, yet I could not wait to get out. I chose to order the special, which you'd think would be spectacular bc it's the special, right? Wrong. It was roasted aubergine and buckwheat with feta, so obvs I swapped out the feta for chickpeas bc dairy, eww. When it arrived it looked like a starter portion (and if you know me then you know I live for voluminous meals). I reluctantly went with it and just accepted that I'd go home and eat again. However, the aubergine was like rubber. It was so tough that I couldn't even cut it with my knife! You expect roasted aubergine to be gooey and full of flavour, yet this was none of those things. 

Of course, I sent it back and did actually specify that if all the aubergine was like this I'd swap to the vegan quinoa salad. Turns out they failed to listen and returned to me with the aubergine looking exactly the same but the chickpeas burnt to a crisp. Far from ideal. Full of frustration and hanger, I sent this back again and clearly specified for them to bring the vegan quinoa salad. When this sad looking half-empty bowl of quinoa and 1/4 of an avo arrived, I decided to pack it up and just head home so I could pair it with other food to make a proper meal. That was one expensive side dish..

My friend had a juice here and did mention that it was nice. So the conclusion of Comptoir 102, is that if you're not hungry and don't mind repeating yourselves a few times to the staff, go for the chilled vibes bc the candle shop and outdoor space is cute (bar the fact it was full of people smoking). I, however, will be swerving this one for the foreseeable future bc a gal needs to eat, you know?


Other vegan spots that I didn't get a chance to try this time around but definitely will next time:
  • Vibe 
  • Urth 
  • Poke & Co 
  • Ultra Brasserie 
  • Tr!beca Kitchen and Bar 
  • Circle Cafe

So that's my round up of vegan Dubai thus far. Hopefully I'll be back to UAE in the spring to try all those other spots and let you know whether they're worth the careem fare..

Jess x




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Thursday, 1 November 2018

I've *finally* gained my level 3 PT! Part 2

Over 65 hours of online learning and five full weekends of physical training complete, I am so happy to say I've finally gained my level 3 PT qualification! If you have no idea how we got here, take a look at Part 1 of this journey here. I've since had a few questions about what the qualification entailed and what I thought of No1 Fitness Education as a course, so here it is.


The course
To be honest, the hardest part was getting through the online learning! It was quite repetitive but they do have to cover all the basics too, even the things that are common sense (which means yes, you have to read about the potential hazard of slipping on wet grass when training a client outside..) You can complete this at your own pace though and it's fairly easy to do on the go as it's all online. It was ideal for me to do between patients!

The five physical sessions, however, went a lot faster. It was a great opportunity to put all the online information into practice and reinforce things such as technique for the major lifts. We were also able to programme sessions for each other and learn about all the different systems of training, which is something that is much easier to learn in person than it is to do online. 

One thing I would say the team at No1 Fitness were great at was the support and reassurance they provided for us. A Whatsapp group was set up, where we could voice any concerns we had and bounce questions off each other. They also sent us some mock papers and made sure we were thoroughly prepared for each exam, which is obviously ideal.

Another perk at No1 Fitness was the chance to use the gym whilst completing the course. Everyone had full access to both studios and can join in a class or train themselves whenever they wanted to, which I thought was pretty cool.

Just finding out we had passes our level 3 practical exams with the group - the best feeling! 

The exams
Apart from the exams at the end of each online learning section, there are a few other exams along the way that we had to sit in person. The first lot were for our level 2 gym instructor exams. These involved:
1. An anatomy and physiology MCQ (multiple choice question) paper
2. Writing a programme for a client
3. Coaching a client through several exercises as requested by the examiner

I was super happy to get great feedback and results from my examiner about my level 2 exams, which motivated me to crack on with the level 3 studying! Level 3 exams were comprised of the same structure as above, but at a more advanced level. The MCQ also covered a much broader range of topics as we were tested on everything we had learned throughout the whole course.

Helping each other through the last stages of the exam..!
What will I do with my qualifications?
I was pretty confident with what I was doing in the gym but this course has given me a much deeper level of understanding of the 'why' behind what I do. I understand the training systems so much more and the ideology of training antagonistic (opposite) muscle groups together instead of just picking random exercises.

I have something very exciting planned for January 2019, which involves one of my favourite training methods - pilates! It will involve both group and one-on-one training with myself in some absolutely incredible facilities, which are still under construction. So keep an eye on my Instagram @jesssriv as I'll keep this updated with the progress of any personal training or classes that I teach.

Jess x




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Thursday, 16 August 2018

*finally* gaining my Level 3 PT: Part 1

Hi friends. I'm back! It's been a little while since I blogged and it's about time I started again tbh. It actually feels quite odd writing on here. Odd because it's strange to write informally after spending the last year completing the dissertation for my masters. I've finally finished it though and I'm not ashamed to say I'm super proud of myself for doing so. Not only for finishing the three-year masters but achieving a distinction overall and also for my final dissertation on Botox to treat chronic migraine and temporomandibular joint disorders. 

With that under my belt, of course, classic Jess, I felt a gap in my life without having something to study for. This is when I finally realised I had time to do something I always wanted to do and further my education in the field of personal training. 

Now, I've already mentioned this on my Instagram and I've had a few messages asking if I'll be changing careers to become a full-time PT. In short, no. No, I will not be throwing in the towel after eight years at university studying dentistry and facial aesthetics (lol). The main reason for me always wanting to gain this PT qualification is because health and fitness is a huge passion of mine, as is my love for helping people to become happy and confident in themselves. In my mind, it all comes under the huge umbrella term of aesthetics. For the last three years, I've adored helping people gain confidence in their smile or their skin. But what about their body? 

I'm always getting questions about training and lifestyle and even though I know what I want to say to people, I am forever holding back because I'm not actually qualified to be giving advice in that field. Hence, I jumped at the opportunity to enroll in the Level 3 PT course with No1 Fitness.


I'm sure snacking is proven to increase studying productivity...


Why No1 Fitness?
All PT courses have to cover the same syllabus, however, the way in which it is delivered at No1 Fitness with their eight years of experience really stood out to me. They also came highly recommended from friends that had completed their course last year. 

As I've mentioned before in my nutrition diploma post, online learning is extremely useful for me whilst working at my dental and aesthetic clinic during the week. No1 Fitness allows me to gain a good understanding of anatomy, physiology and training online via their e-learning platform before five consecutive weekends of intensive physical sessions. 


My thoughts so far..
At the moment I am half way through the e-learning. I know this is the part that most people hate but the geek in me is loving it! It was actually quite exciting re-visiting human biology (a topic that I hadn't covered since my first year at dental school). I've always loved cardiology in particular and fun fact - if I had my time again I likely would have done medicine at uni and specialised to be a cardiologist. I just find it fascinating! 

I'm super excited to get into the gym for the physical sessions starting mid-September. I will report back with a part 2 to this blog post to let you know how I found it and *hopefully* by then I will have my Level 3 PT qualification! 

So, for now, dentistry and facial aesthetics will remain my bread and butter, but who knows where my career will take me in the future. There's only one way to find out and that is to complete my journey with No1 Fitness! 

See you on the other side 
Jess x






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Sunday, 11 March 2018

The only [energy] balls you need in your life

I’ve tried lots of energy ball recipes and they were all loaded with either far too many dates or nuts and not enough protein, if any. This is why I came up with the following recipe – it saves me spending a fortune on less than ideal energy balls and has turned out to be the perfect sweet treat or snack to take on the go.

It took quite a bit of playing around with and the milk ratio varies a lot depending on what protein powder you use. I use vegan protein, which is super thick (so needs more liquid). However, I recently discovered that when making these for one of my friends using her beef isolate protein, it needs virtually no liquid as the beef protein causes everything to miraculously turn to water (oatmeal included! Sad times).

I’ve therefore included a range with the almond milk so adjust accordingly depending on what protein you’re using. I originally made these with vegan vanilla protein but tried it with chocolate and think it's just as delicious. So I've included two variations – one vanilla and one chocolate. How original..!

Vegan vanilla and cinnamon balls

Ingredients: 
(makes 8 balls)
  •  1 scoop protein of choice - vanilla or chocolate 
  •  ½ cup oats
  • ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  •  4 pitted ‘normal’ dates or 2 pitted medjool dates as they’re much bigger
  •  2 tbsp almond butter
  • ¼ cup almond milk if using vegan protein OR 3 tbsp almond milk if using beef isolate protein (I haven’t tried using whey as I don't consume dairy but if you are using it I’d imagine it’s around 4 tbsp. If anyone tries it with whey, let me know!)
  •  Extra desiccated coconut to roll the balls in afterwards

FOR VANILLA: add ½ tsp ground cinnamon
FOR CHOCOLATE: add 1 tbsp raw cacao powder

This is the texture you're looking for - see point 3 below for more detail 

Method:
  1. Firstly decide on if you’re making vanilla or chocolate!
  2. Then place all relevant ingredients into a food processor depending on which flavour you’re going for.
  3. Blend until the mixture looks like a crumb but enough so that there are no lumps of date left (see above photo). You don't want to over-blend it so that it turns into a paste. The mixture shouldn't stick to the sides of the food processor or the blade. It should, however, be easy to pick up and stick together when pressed.
  4. Once you have the right consistency, wet your hands and begin to form the mixture into small balls. Wetting your hands stops any mixture sticking to you and saves so much mess!
  5. Make sure you press each ball firmly together and then roll into a bowl of the extra desiccated coconut.
  6. Place on a plate and then refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up.

You’ll be addicted from first bite so apologies in advance..! Let me know if you make them and tag me on insta @jesssriv!

Jess x


The perfect cakey consistency. Because who doesn't love tea and cake..?
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Saturday, 10 March 2018

15-minute red lentil dhal

This is my go-to vegan protein source when I haven’t had time to soak any beans, chickpeas or other lentils etc. Red lentils don't need to be soaked but they DO have to be rinsed thoroughly. That, I do have time for as it takes about 3 minutes to do and increases the ease of digestion so much more. 

I have made this recipe countless times and it always seems to go down really well when I make it for other people too. I often cook a whole 500g packet of lentils and it’ll then last me a few days. This recipe, however, is for 3 people or 3 meals but it can easily be doubled. 

For any left over lentils, I store them in a tupperware. They will solidify on cooling so when it comes to reheating, just place them in a pan with enough water to regain the correct consistency and voila, you've got another amazing meal!


Ingredients:
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Few grinds of pink salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 handfuls of fresh coriander, finely chopped 

The perfect vegan dinner party set up: red lentil dhal, sticky tahini brown rice and garlicky sautéed veggies
Method:
  1. Thoroughly rinse the lentils in fresh water and keep repeating until the water runs clear. It’ll start off very cloudy but after about 4-5 rinses it’ll begin to look clear.
  2. Mix up the vegetable stock and add to the rinsed and drained lentils along with the turmeric, cumin, chilli, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are completely soft and all the stock has been absorbed.
  4. If at any point in the cooking process the lentils begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, just add more water. The exact ratios of stock/water to lentils doesn't matter as much as it does for rice IMO. So adding some extra liquid in mid-cooking isn’t an issue at all.
  5. Whilst the lentils are simmering, heat the olive oil in a clean frying pan.
  6. Add in the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions have softened and browned.  
  7. During this time the lentils should be cooked. Add them to the frying pan and stir well so that everything is nicely combined.
  8. Once cooked, add in the fresh coriander and serve. I like to have mine with brown rice and veggies (as shown above).



Enjoy and let me know if you try them on my insta @jesssriv!


Jess x
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