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Brita Boost Challenge - Relaxation

Monday, 27 January 2014

I've reached day 27 of Dry January and I'm pleased to report it's going very well. I've managed to stick to my aim of avoiding alcohol and drinking a minimum of 1.2 litres of water a day. My skin is looking noticeably clearer and I'm feeling very fresh and upbeat.

There are many reasons why people drink and BRITA have identified 5 key reasons which I outlined back in my first Brita Boost post. One of those reasons is relaxation and that's what I'm going to focus on today.

Brita Drinking alcohol can help you to relax in the short term, but long-term drinking to cope with stress can lead to a range of health and social problems including addiction, obesity and relationship difficulties. If you drink alcohol every day, your concentration and ability to work will be affected making your more stressed out in the long run.

Alcohol is a depressant and calms certain parts of the brain which may help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed but it can become a habit

Don't avoid the issue 

You're not properly confronting the issues that make you feel stressed in the first place by having a post work drink. Have a chat with a colleague, a friend or member of your family and see what steps you can take to make changes.

I've never really been fond of week day drinking but I've certainly used it at weekend to relax and feel like I'm letting my hair down a bit. BRITA organised a relaxing treatment for me as a substitute for a glass (or three) of wine to relax. I was treated to the Laguna Full Body Massage to ease stress and muscle tension. I was a little nervous before hand as I've never had a massage prior to this. 

I really felt like this treatment helped ease the strain of day to day life and the tightness I had in my legs from walking up and down hundreds of steps in France the week before disappeared. The combination of the relaxing music, oils, and deep muscle massage helped me to forget my troubles and nearly nod off. You wouldn't need to do something quite as extravagant at this 
every week to wind down but you could do something simple like paint your nails, take a long bath or take some time out to listen to your favourite music with no distractions. 

Drinking water  and staying hydrated after a massage is often recommended by massage therapists and health care practitioners. Drinking water is always a good idea, as the body benefits from proper hydration, and consuming water will help the kidneys and other organs process the various substances which move through the human body on a regular basis. Drinking water before a massage is also highly recommended, as it will make it easier for the massage therapist to perform deep work by hydrating the muscles so that they are easier to manipulate.
Water after a massage helps the body flush out any accumulated materials in the muscles which were released during the massage. Deep massage stimulates circulation in the body while getting rid of water, salt, and other minerals from the muscles, and circulation is designed to carry away waste materials generated by cells. By providing the body with plenty of water you can help sweep away these waste materials; otherwise, they might build up, causing muscle aches and soreness after a massage.

I stayed hydrated before and after my massage with my BRITA Fill&Go bottle and continued the relaxation after my massage by going home, putting a face mask on and spending some time alone.

Do you drink to help you relax? If you're doing Dry January how are you getting on?

Mexican Lasagne

Sunday, 26 January 2014

I’ve spoken before about my love for Food Network, but if you have a similar addiction, you’ll know that most recipes on there don’t really fit on a website with a diet/fitness focus. So prepare to be even more shocked when I bring up Nigella – oh yes, I have a Nigella recipe for you today, and it’s really not naughty. AND I barely tinkered with it at all. I know, I know – I was surprised too. I kind of expected more of Nigella.

This Mexican Lasagne is vegetarian and super filling. I actually messed up my layers slightly as I forgot how to count, so I’m going to talk you through how I SHOULD have done it. It’s a really easy recipe though and very hearty. I must confess – even if it’s a touch TMI – I felt like it made me a little bloated, but it is quite carb heavy with the wraps and the beans. If I made it again, I’d cut down on the tortillas used (due to messing up the layers, I ended up using 12 in the whole dish which was overkill), decrease the beans and up the sweetcorn (and maybe the cheese). It’s a good, stodgy meal though – great for winter – and it freezes really well, so yay for that!

The main changes I made was cutting out the oil (honestly, you hardly ever need to cook with oil), upping the vegetables in the salsa (the salsa is almost entirely point-free, so next time I’d even be tempted to up the tomato!) and swapping the cheese. I think it would work with just low fat cheddar, though. I also changed the beans – the original recipe calls for black beans, but I couldn’t find them!

You can see Nigella’s original recipe here.

Mexican Lasagne
9 Weight Watchers wraps - 25PP
1 tbsp Tomato Ketchup - 1PP
3 cans Pinto Beans - 17PP
2 165g cans Sweetcorn - 6PP
200g feta - 15PP
225g mozzarella - 10PP
50g low fat cheddar - 4PP
2 onions
1 punnet mushrooms
2 peppers (any colour)
2 green or red chillies, chopped and deseeded (or not, depending on how spicy you like it)
3 cloves fresh garlic
Fresh coriander
800g chopped tomatoes (2 cans)
400ml water (swilled in empty cans)

Serves 8
78PP / 10PP

1. Preheat the oven to 200c.
2. Finely chop all your veggies
3. In a wok or non-stick frying pan fry the onion, pepper, mushrooms, chillies and crushed garlic cloves until soft
4. Add the canned tomatoes, then swill the cans out with water and add this too. Spoon in the ketchup and let the sauce come to a simmer, leaving it to cook with the lid off for about 10 mins. It should thicken considerably, but if it still looks watery turn the heat up and leave it a little longer.
5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix the drained beans and sweetcorn. Add the chopped mozzarella and feta, and mix together until well combined.
6. When the sauce is done (make sure to season to taste with salt/pepper and any other spices) you can start assembling. I just used my lasagne dish.
7. Smear a bit of the salsa on the bottom of your dish – enough to just cover it.
8. Add a layer of tortilla. To fit the space I used 2 overlapping wraps, then chopped a third in half and put it on either end (see the photo)
9. Add half the remaining salsa, then add another layer of tortillas over them
10. Add all of your sweetcorn/bean/cheese mix then add another layer of tortillas
11. Add the remaining salsa over the top, then sprinkle your cheddar over that.
12. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, then let rest for a good 10-15 minutes before slicing.
13. As much as you may not want to, leaving it to rest DOES make a difference. I ate it straight out of the oven and it fell apart – I had to use a spoon to get it out! When I portioned up the rest, it sliced incredibly neatly and I could use a fishslice to lift it out.

To reduce points – you could easily leave out a tortilla layer, and I doubt you’d miss it. You could also cut down on the beans, or switch the type of cheese. Next time, I’m probably going to do all three of these things and I think it’ll taste better for it! I also think the ketchup added nothing to the flavour – I’d use sweet chilli instead.

Weight Watchers Event: Simple Start Launch

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Both Gem and I are big Weight Watchers fans, so when the WW team invited me along to a cooking challenge and to find out more about their new plan, I jumped at the chance. WW has worked wonders for me, and even though I slipped off track at the end of last year due to a calorific holiday to the States and Christmas, I really haven’t found it hard to get back into it.

The event was a lovely chance to meet the WW team and their new celebrity ambassador, Shelina (who won Masterchef last year). She showed us how to make a couple of healthy recipes – turkey patties, corn salsa and grilled pineapple skewers. Here are the recipes, if you want to make them! I bought my friend Anne with me, who is also a WW fan (there are more of us than you think) and she was amused by my cooking style – my philosophy has always been not to use utensils if I can use my hands! I did end up a bit messy, but that's how I roll.

What all of the dishes we made had in common were that they are all free under the new Weight Watchers plan, Simple Start. Simple Start is how new members will now be introduced to the plan, and is based on the Filling & Healthy plan that existing members will already be aware of. It’s basically about eating food that is naturally low in fat but filling, and then allowing yourself a small portion of things off the list every day. Then, after the first two weeks, members can choose whether or not to start pointing, or whether to stay on the Simple Start/Filling & Healthy plan.

Simple Start is perfect for people who don’t like their portions being restricted, or who can’t get their heads round pointing. The philosophy is that you can eat as much as you want of the foods on the list, so there’s no counting or portion control.

To be completely honest though, Simple Start is not the plan for me. It has a lot in common with Slimming World, which didn’t work for me because I am GREEDY. If someone tells me I can eat as much pasta as I want, then I totally will. But also, I struggled with the fact that to get the most out of your daily meals, everything really has to be made from scratch. My dinners usually are, but I do rely on shopbought soup and porridge packets, as well as cereal bars, low fat crisps and chocolate bars. The points system really works for me, because it restricts my food while also letting me have a little of what I fancy. If I did Simple Start all the time, I’d probably not eat the things that were off-list, and then I’d start majorly craving them – and so when I fall off the diet wagon, I can’t get back on it. My mum has just started WW with me and after a week on Simple Start, has switched to points and is getting on much better. She has a similar philosophy to me, I think.

I think everyone is different though, and Simple Start has already worked really well for a lot of people. When I get to where I want to on Weight Watchers, I do want to switch to Filling & Healthy rather than pointing forever. But for now, I definitely need that structure to get to where I want to be. It was a fabulous event though – I loved getting my cook on! Thanks for the invite, Weight Watchers!

Low fat prawn curry

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

I always struggle to think of new things to cook and my small repertoire of dishes can get a little dull so I wanted to try something new. It's freezing cold outside at the moment so I thought a spicy curry would be a perfect new dish to try. I picked up some lovely fresh prawns to make this but you could use whatever you have in the freezer. Curries are a great way to use up leftover vegetables and this one can be frozen so you could make a huge batch and then get one out of the freezer when you're too busy to cook.

It's a very tasty recipe and is quick to make so it's perfect for a mid week Indian feast. It's really adaptable so if you're veggie you could add some cauliflower or butternut squash to this. For those on the Weight Watchers plan you could skip the rice and add even more zero point vegetables for a filling but low point meal. I also think this recipe is a great way to sneak vegetables into your diet if you're not too keen on them.

I work this out at roughly 220 calories per serving and the recipes serves 4. Adding 200g of brown rice will add another 215 calories.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 400g king prawns
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • large piece ginger, crushed
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ red chilli, finely chopped
  • Pinch or two of sugar
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp garam masala (I didn't have any so put some curry powder in which had a similar blend)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • small bunch coriander, chopped. I only had dried so used that.
  • brown rice to serve


    Heat the oil in a deep pan and cook the onion until it starts to turn golden and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for 1-2 mins. Stir in the sugar and spices for 1 min, then add the tinned and fresh tomatoes and the peppers. Season with sea salt and simmer for 5 mins, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the prawns, reduce the heat and cook for 8-10 mins until cooked through. Remove from the heat, stir though most the coriander.

    Serve with rice or naan. Yum!

New Covent Garden Skinny Soup

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Team Where Are My Knees love eating soup for lunch and Sarah has already posted about why it's so great. You really can't beat some warming and filling soup for lunch on cold winter days and there isn't always time to make your own. Luckily Covent Garden have launched a new range of ‘Skinny’ soups that are tasty and convenient.
The range includes four new flavours including Tomato and Vegetables with Green Lentils, Goan Spiced Chicken and Lentils, Quinoa and Turtle Bean with Chilli and Lime, plus Souper Greens Italian Pesto soups which are all less than 2% fat and contain up to two portions of vegetables per serving.

I recently sampled the Souper Greens Italian Pesto which is a blend of peas, leeks, courgettes, spinach, broccoli and green beans. With less than 150 calories per portion and no added sugar, these soups are perfect for the health-conscious and definitely a great choice if you’re looking for a quick meal that’s healthy too. I also sampled the Tomato & Vegetable soup pictured below and it was really rather filling.

You can pick up New Covent Garden Skinny Soups in supermarkets now.

Are you a soup fan? If you've posted a great soup recipe I would love to see them so leave a comment with a link and I will check them out.

Brita Boost Challenge - Taste - Mixology

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

It's now day 14 of Dry January for me (Gemma) and that's nearly half way through my BRITA Boost challenge. I've managed to drink the recommended 1.2 litres of water a day by using my BRITA jug and flask despite going on holiday and staying at my boyfriend's house. You can read more about the challenge in my first post here.

Part of the appeal of alcohol can be the taste so Brita hosted an event to inspire me to find a tasty alternative to alcohol. They worked with a mixologist to devise an exclusive list of mocktails that all use filtered water, to ensure they taste the best they can. I was unable to attend the event as I was on my holiday in France so our new 'Roving reporter' Maggie headed to the event to find out what it was all about. If you want to meet our new roving reporter you can head over to her blog here or say hi over on twitter. It can be tricky for some of the Where Are My Knees team to attend events as none of us are based in central London so I'm very happy to welcome Maggie to the team.

When I think of mocktails I just picture a restaurant adding soda to fruit juice and charging over the odds for it, so I was looking forward to Brita and Mixology showing me otherwise and proving that Dry January doesn't have to mean missing out on social events either.

We were welcomed to the Mixology lounge in Shoreditch with a glass of Brita filtered water. Not quite the glass of wine that is normally thrust in to your hands at events, but actually quite welcome after a day spent in a drying air-conditioned office environment. I'm very un-fond of tap water in London (I come from Scotland where the tap water may as well be straight from a spring) but Brita's filtration process really does make the difference removing the harsh chemically elements from the tap water and leaving a clear, fresh and refreshing drink behind.

We were then divided in to groups across the mixing benches and shown how to mix four different drinks which we then recreated ourselves: a warm and comforting Hot Toddy; an Elderflower Julep, sweet and fresh with mint; the sharp and fragrent Lavender Sour; and a Pink Champagne punch, perfect for sharing with friends. These all, of course, featured Brita filtered water among a selection of more traditional (non-alcoholic) cocktail ingredients. My favourite was the Lavender Sour I liked how the bitter lemon juice tasted against the floral lavender syrup, and if you didn't know better you would swear there was gin in the mix so I definitely didn't miss the alcohol at all. If you want to make any of the mocktails follow this link for pdf recipe cards.

Our mixologist also taught us about the history of the drinks, such as punch originated as a way for sailors to use up stale beer, or that 'julep' comes from a Persian word meaning rose water. It was also great fun to learn techniques such as using a mixer, muddling, churning, and capping the ice. Somehow I managed to get the hang of using and releasing the mixer from the glass straight away, which I thought I would struggle with.

After all of this, each team was then challenged to come up with a drink of their own invention. Our group came up with the Eldernut Slammer, as we decided that teetotalers shouldn't have to miss out on the fun of shots. We were beaten to the winning spot by a creation called 'Britalicious' but all attempts were judged as very drinkable, which we were told doesn't always happen at the Cocktail events, due to the quantity of alcohol people are under the influence of by the time they get to the competition.

The class and the whole evening was very enjoyable and it was nice to know I wouldn't be feeling worse for wear in the morning no matter how many of the drinks I enjoyed. Best of all, Brita sent us away with a Mocktail kit of our very own, so now I'm looking forward to inviting some friends around, impressing them with my bartending skills (hah!) and showing how to make tasty and interesting drinks with water instead of alcohol.

Brita made a short video about the event

If your taking part in Dry January I hope you're doing well, let me know how you're getting on in the comments section below. 

Brita Boost Challenge - Dry January

Saturday, 4 January 2014

January is always a month where people start a diet, detox and make and break resolutions after a little too much Christmas excess. I'm no different and since January 1st I've been aiming to drink a minimum of 1.2 litres of water a day and take a little time out to pamper myself and relax. I ended my year feeling bloated and exhausted due to all my commitments.

My ultimate aim is to get into a exercise and diet routine and drinking more water and staying hydrated is a very important factor in that. BRITA contacted me before Christmas to ask me if I wanted to join their BRITA Boost Challenge and I jumped at the chance. I need to give up alcohol for the month of January, drink more water and spend a little time focusing on the reasons why I drink.

BRITA sent me a Hydration Hamper containing BRITA filter products and some other lovely extras...

There are loads of reasons why you should rink more water some of which are:

  • Water Helps Energize Muscles -When muscle cells don't have adequate fluids, they don't work as well and performance can suffer leading to muscle fatigue.
  • Water Helps Keep Skin Looking Good - Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss.
  • Water Helps Your Kidneys - Your kidneys need plenty of water to cleanse and rid your body of toxins.

The BRITA Marella Jug is going to come in very handy with this challenge, it can hold up to 1.4 litres of filtered water and by drinking some of that and by using the Fill & Go bottle when I'm in work or working out I will be well on the way to drinking my target amount of 1.2 litres a day. The bottle can hold 0.6 litres and uses the same  filter technology as the jugs which significantly reduces chlorine and improves the tastse. The bottle is also BPA free so you don't have that plastic taste you can get from drinking out of bottles.

I've also got a few more things to help me feel good on the inside:

I can't wait to try out some Zumba, does anyone know good YouTube channels for this? I'm also going to use the iTunes voucher to download some relaxing music so I can unwind at night or listen to when I go on more walks with my dog. A big part of why I drink is to relieve stress so I'm hoping exercise and  focusing my well being will mean I can cut out my G&T cravings.

I've also got a few things to try out to help me look good on the outside too:

If I think I look good I have more confidence and confidence is a key reason why people drink. I'm hoping a pampered and glamarous me wont feel the need to drink to boost confidence.

Throughout the month I will be taking part in challenges which will get me thinking about the reasons why we drink and ways to avoid it. People chose to drink from some of these five reasons - taste, socialising, confidence booster, relaxing and for the buzz.

Taste - Lots of people like to drink great tasting cocktails or are fine ale connoisseurs but BRITA will be challenging me to come up with lovely mocktail recipes.

Socialising - There is a huge pub and bar culture here in the UK and a lot of us drink to socialise. I'm going to be hosting a dinner party with friends (totally wine free) to show you can have a good time and see all your friends outside of a pub situation.

Confidence Booster - We all love a bit of Dutch courage but BRITA will be teaching me some confidence boosting tips so I don't feel the need to reach for a drink.

Relaxing  - A glass of wine after a hard day at work is a great way to unwind but not really the most healthy option. I'm going to try out a relaxing therapy to unwind.

Buzz People often drink to get a buzz and BRITA setting up an activity to get the adrenaline pumping in the form of exercise.