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The super stir fry

Rewind six years and I was a fresh faced fresher arriving in earnest at university. First time living away from home and I didn’t have A CLUE how to cook. No, seriously, I could just about to do baked beans on toast. In fact, on one particular occasion I managed to burn a jacket potato to a crisp in the microwave. The first ever dish I ate with my new flat mate (and now best friend), was a stir fry. And I didn’t even cook the stir fry!! From that moment on, stir fry was my staple meal and I genuinely ate it about 3-4 times a week! I was all about pre chopped veg, egg noodles and packet sauce though. Hey, I was a lazy student!IMG_3705
Stir fry has continued to be my comfort meal but since my culinary skills have expanded, I use fresh ingredients and a wide range of my favourite vegetables. I absolutely love this recipe – so many super food vegetables AND it’s gluten and dairy free! Your golden ingredient here are the Tamari sauce. It is extremely similar to soya sauce in flavour and texture and it still derives from the soy bean, but it’s wheat free. Winning! The sweet peppers also add colour and a sweet kick to the dish.
This recipe is so super simple! Perfect weekday dinner and still gorgeous if you reheat for lunch. It is gluten free, dairy free and vegan! This recipe could be LOFFLEX friendly if you replace some of the vegetables.
Ingredients  – Serves 2
2 garlic cloves – crushed/chopped finely
Thumb of ginger – finely chopped
3 tbsp Tamari sauce
Half a red chilli – finely chopped (more if you like it spicy!)
Brown rice noodles
Mixed sweet peppers (I like different colours but pick up what’s available!)
100g pack of asparagus – chopped in half
One large pak choi – finely chopped
Large handful of kale
Half a pack of mange tout
Half a bunch of coriander – roughly chopped for garnish
Method
Start by putting a pan of salted water on to boil – get this ready for your noodles.
On a chopping board, finely chop your garlic, ginger and red chilli, and put to one side. Then chop your asparagus in half, roughly chop your pak choi and slice your sweet peppers into slithers.
Once your water is boiling, add your noodles. Now heat a large glug of olive oil in a wok. Wait until your oil is hot and add your crushed garlic and ginger. Bring the heat down to a medium level and stir for a minute.

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Look at those colours!

Then add your mange tout, asparagus, red chilli and peppers. Give these a couple of minutes, before adding the pak choi. Stir these all together until the pak choi has started to whilt. Now add your tamari sauce and watch it sizzle! The kale comes last, as it cooks extremely fast. Stir everything together and let your veggies sizzle in the tamari sauce. Your noodles should be done by now, so drain these and add them to your wok. Stir through. If it’s looking a bit dry, add a little more tamari sauce.
 
 
Serve with roughly chopped coriander on top and some fresh chilli if you like it spicy. Delicious!
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The best thing about this recipe is versatility. Swap up the vegetables to your taste – in this dish I used green beans instead of asparagus and mange tout – still just as yum!
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bryonyhopkins

Eating out – May favourites

Apart from cooking, my other major love in life is going out for dinner. In fact, not just dinner – make that lunch, brunch and breakfast too! Yes, I am that person who Instagrams all my meals out! IMG_2812I absolutely love eating out and it was obviously a bit of a shock when I first went out to dinner after the liquid diet to discover how little I could eat on restaurant menus. It was a complete minefield – especially when you are faced with a menu of which you can barely eat anything and the waiter/waitress doesn’t have a clue either!
In my first few meals out, I was going to my usual favourite food chains. You know, Pizza Express, Cote, Revolution Bar etc and my local pubs/cafes. At first I thought it would be easy enough to just have chips if all else fails – but soon learnt that sometimes chips have a gluten batter. WHAT? Chips in my eyes are just potato and oil!! And so my knowledge of vast food manufacturers expanded and I realised that there is a tonne of hidden ingredients in a multitude of foods you eat in restaurants. I mean really – why do we need a gluten batter on a potato?
I’m still off gluten, dairy, beans & lentils and most grains such as quinoa and buckwheat. So as you can see, options are slim! After several dinners out with friends and family where there was no other option other than sit there with a side salad, it became clear I had to scrutinise every menu in advance.
Mid May, I went out with my flatmates and I (rather bolshily) said I would research all our nearby eateries and make a decision about where we should eat. Enter Pho….
PHO
Price range: £
Pho is a Vietnamese chain restaurant. I was unbelievably happy to see that their entire menu was certified gluten free by the Coeliac Society, apart from their beers and chocolate cake (this is understandable!) Their menu is plentiful, so many amazing starters including lettuce and meat wraps, vegetable rice spring rolls, crispy prawn crackers and obviously the most famIMG_3092ous dish, Pho – a Vietnamese soup dish. I ordered vegetable spring rolls and the prawn ‘Bun’ noodles, which is vermicelli rice noodles with a lemongrass and chilli wok-fried topping. Served with fresh herbs, beansprouts, veggie spring roll and peanuts. It was amazing to be able to choose out of anything on the menu!
In excitement, I returned a week after. This time I tried to order a curry – turns out these are not dairy free, containing condensed milk. So if you’re dairy free as well as gluten free, its worth asking about the curry options. Would definitely recommend for a delicious but casual meal with lots of choice and it’s not a meal that’s going to break the bank!

 
PING PONG
Price range: £
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Keeping with the oriental theme, my next recent favourite is Ping Pong, a chain specialising in dim sum, cocktails and chinese tea. I was at some midweek after work drinks with a friend, when we started getting seriously hungry. IMG_3320Ping Pong was next door and initially, I just thought no. No way, there won’t be anything on the menu I can eat. I thought dim sum and thought instantly gluten. However, on further investigation, it turns out they have a
selection of gluten and dairy free options.Granted, the list wasn’t as expansive as Pho, but their menu was clearly marked. They even gave me a special ‘dairy free menu’, which also had gluten free options marked off. I was so impressed with this. Especially as I’ve been given so many ‘nutrition charts’ in restaurants where you have to work out each individual ingredient in each dish.  I went for the Seafood Dumpling and the Har Gau – so delicious!! Find Ping Pong chains across the UK.
 
MAE DELI
Price range: ££
Mae Deli is the brain child of Deliciously Ella – an extremely prominent health and food blogger. Deliciously Ella believes in a gluten free and vegan way of life and I loved creating some of the recipes in her book. So I was really excited to find that her deli was only twenty minutes from work! I ventured there on a day off in centraIMG_3233l London. The deli is small but the range of products on offer is amazing. They have a wide range of salads and hot dishes, all made of completely natural and whole ingredients. Although I have to be honest, it wasn’t this that got me excited. It was the MASSIVE RANGE OF CAKES! I hadn’t eaten a proper cake in eight weeks when I went in there and I completely zoned in on a strawberry and coconut cake, resembling a victoria sponge. There were numerous options on the drink list too – a whole smoothie bar in fact. I went for a matcha latte to go with my cake, as I’d never tried one and opted to have it with coconut milk. The cake was delicious, as was the latte. I even purchased a couple of cacao and nut energy balls for a snack later! I would definitely go back to get a takeaway salad or sample some of the hot dish for dinner. Be prepared to spend the dollar here though – a cake and a latte came to £8. Which in comparison to your usual coffee chains, is fairly pricy. At the moment there is only one deli in London – find the address here.
ETHOS FOODS
Price range: £££
IMG_3296 (1)On my exploration for gluten and dairy free dining, I found Ethos Foods. A completely meat free restaurant in the heart of central London, serving a wide range of dairy free, gluten free, vegan and refined sugar free options. The spread was amazing – more breathtaking than Mae Deli. Massive bowls of salads, humous, fresh dips, fresh bread, hot dishes and a HUGE STAND of sweet treats. It wasn’t just the quantity of options on show, it was the creativity of the dishes. Delicious sweet potato scotch eggs and miso aubergine, potato and pesto salad. DAIRY FREE FRESH PESTO! The cake stand was another level, full of energy balls, cookies and huge chocolate cakes. The idea is you take a plate it and load it with whatever you want. Although at £2.80 per 100g, it does work out quite expensive. I filled my plate and had a fresh juice, with the bill coming to £14.09. Having said that, Ethos is by far the favourite restaurant I’ve visited. It is worth the journey if you’re coming into London and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. YUMMMM!
 
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bryonyhopkins

Sweet potato rostis with chunky salsa

When I first started the LOFFLEX DIET diet, the first recipe in the recommended food booklet was potato cakes. I absolutely loved these and started having them for breakfast, lunch and even dinner! I also love sweet potatoes and wanted to crack a recipe which was similar. I adore the naughty crunch after you fry these – just like hash browns (which are another guilty pleasure of mine!) This is a lovely lunch or a light supper – the chunky avocado and tomato salsa providing a refreshing counterpart to the rostis.
This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and vegan! The rostis and spinach are recommended in LOFFLEX diet – watch out for the lime and the tomato skin in the salsa though if you are in the early stages of food reintroduction.
Ingredients – this makes about 3-5 rostis (depending how big your sweet potato is!) and a small dish of salsa. Double quantities for more!
For the rostis:IMG_3380
One large sweet potato
One clove of garlic
1 tbspn olive oil
Tbspn rice flour
Salt & pepper
For the chunky salsa:
2 ripe avocados
2 large ripe tomatoes
Juice of 1 lime
Bunch of coriander
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 small red chilli (add to taste)
Method 
We’re going to start with the salsa! Take your ripe tomatoes and chop the green tops off. Scoop out the pips (I do this as I don’t tolerate pips well, but feel free to keep them in) and chop into small pieces. Add to a bowl. Scoop out the avocado from the skin and chop into chunky medium pieces – add them to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add the juice of your lime, large glug of olive oil, half your bunch of coriander (chopped), your red chilli if you like it spicy and season with salt and pepper. Mix together and your salsa is ready! Cover and put to one side.
Now for the rostis. The critical point here is to get rid of as much moisture as you can. Peel your large sweet potato and chop in half – it’s just easier to grate this way. Grab a large bowl and grate your sweet potato into a tea towel. Once you’ve grated, squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Now add to a bowl. Add a tablespoon of rice flour, a large glug of olive oil and a finely chopped clove of garlic. Season with salt and pepper before mixing together.IMG_3384
Heat olive oil in a frying pan until it is extremely hot. Gather together a ball of your sweet potato mixture and form a little patty. Add to the hot oil and repeat until you’ve used all your mixture. If you find that your mixture isn’t sticking together very well, add more olive oil. Fry your rostis for three minutes on each side (keep the heat high), until they are slightly charred on the outside. May need to fry for longer if your patty’s are thick. Try not to poke around with them too much so the mixture falls apart – just flip when one side is done!
Serve on a bed of spinach or rocket, with your salsa! Yummmmmm.
BRUNCH IT! Add an fried egg and place on top of the rostis to make this a gorgeous brunch. The runny yolk is delicious with the avocado and the sweet potato.
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bryonyhopkins

A diet revolution

HELLO strangers! This post is well overdue – as I promised the blog will live on, and it does! It’s been a roller coaster two weeks to be honest, with my birthday falling slap bang in the middle of it and so I have been entirely consumed with enjoying my new found zest for life (and eating, obvs).

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Birthday joy

Since my last blog post, I have been slowly weaning myself back onto food. I have been on something called the LOFFLEX diet – Low Fat Fibre Reduced Exclusion Diet. This diet was developed by nutritional researchers at Addensbrooke University in Cambridge, and excludes foods which have been found to aggravate Crohn’s. You are recommended to follow this diet for two weeks after finishing the liquid diet, before introducing other foods. The LOFFLEX excludes all the staples that I used to eat – goodbye wheat, goodbye all oats and grains, goodbye citrus fruits and goodbye all fortified sugars (ALL SWEETS AND CHOCOLATE!) Of course that’s totally doable, but I also cannot eat any nuts, dried fruit, any gluten free products, eggs, sesame… basically anything fun.
Here is what I’ve eaten on a typical day: 
Breakfast – 1 carton of elemental. 2 ricecakes with seedless jam/honey/soya spread
Morning snack – Mint tea or elemental. 2 more ricecakes if hungry!
Lunch – lettuce, cucumber, avocado and prawn salad. Drizzled in olive oil.
Afternoon snack – 1 carton of elemental
Dinner – mash potato or jacket potato, with olive oil or soya spread. A piece of white fish and veg (carrots/kale/courgette peeled)
So as you can see the elemental lives on… and I think it will do for a while. I’ve come to find it to be my security blanket when I’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with me. It’s also the only thing I feel 100% safe about putting in my body – it’s amazing how much trust I have in it. I’ve focused a lot on the positives throughout this blog and I can’t lie, the benefits have been tenfold. I want to get real for a moment though – for all the fellow Crohnies out there who have been following my journey through the liquid diet and who may go through the same themselves. It’s not all roses the garden. What I’m coming to understand is that Crohn’s are is far more complex than I ever could have imagined. It’s clever and it’s fierce – and it reacts to the things you least expect…
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Currently living off veg, veg and more veg

I have been keeping a strict food and symptom diary to document how my body reacts to various foods. Since introducing food 13 days ago, I have had 3 ‘elemental days’. These have followed a day where I’ve consumed something that clearly isn’t my friend. As you can see above, I have kept it pretty bland – but on days where I’ve felt brave, I have introduced something new. Last week, I decided to introduce a fresh fruit juice for my breakfast – one of the juices I prepped in my previous blog post – Day 23: The juicy epiphanyIt was delicious – so refreshing and filling. I followed it with lunch and dinner that I had trialled and tested before…
Later that day I experienced a solid 4/10 pain. Let me put this into context – this is NOWHERE near the pain I was getting before. I was easily on 8/9 before I started the liquid diet. However, I’ve gone from, no pain, to some pain. Hmmm. Looking back at the LOFFLEX I realised apple was a known irritant and the juice contained 3 whole apples. I had the culprit. I followed this with 2 elemental days – where I reverted to feeling grumpy and fed up. The pain did ease though.
Furthermore, yesterday I had a gorgeous breakfast of quinoa flakes, soya yogurt and maple syrup. It was unreal to eat something with actual flavour. Whilst on my sugar high, I experienced a 6/10 on the pain scale. Hmmm!! I will have to go back to figure out which element of that breakfast was the irritant (praying it wasn’t quinoa!) And so, you see, the trial and error continues. At times it is frustrating – especially when I am eating the same things day in day out and I am feel nervous about what to eat. I haven’t even reached the reintroduction stage where I try the more difficult foods – I’m still hopscotching around step 1!
Revamping your diet is HARD. It’s a total lifestyle change. I know it will all be worth it though. How do I know I hear you ask?! The proof is in the pudding (or lack of pudding…). Watching this totally gave me the boost I needed – Kris Carr Super Soul Sessions with Oprah
Life is for LIVVVINGGG and last weekend I enjoyed my 24th lap around the sun in the best possible way. Just five weeks ago, I wouldn’t have been equipped to celebrate in any way. Least of all with one dinner, two lunches and a night dancing in a club! So while I still can’t eat a plethora of interesting foods – at least I am eating. I am LIVVVINGG with the power in my hands. I can take some control some of my healing process.
BUT I HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN! Anyone embarking on a dramatic diet will vouch for this – it’s overwhelming at times. I hope that following my journey will help many of you. I’ve read tonnes of books where I’m told to eat this/eat that but I just end up asking myself, HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT? I am learning, condensing and translating for you.
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bryonyhopkins

Day 23: The juicy epiphany

If you’ve been following my journey through the liquid jungle since day one – you’ll know that I’ve started to completely change my attitude towards diet and the role it plays in my life. It’s incredible to see the difference the liquid diet has made and I am determined to maintain this state of health beyond the days of elemental. I have gone through my entire life relying solely on drugs, surgery and the doctors advise without ever making any massive changes to my lifestyle. I continued to eat ready meals, takeaways, processed foods, I continued to drink alcohol more than twice a week, I have continued to have a jam packed social life with little time to rest. And I’ve only ground to a shuddering halt when my body has screamed ‘STOP!’, in the form of some flare/virus/bug/severe fatigue. (Let me just say, I don’t regret those decisions. I was a child/teenager/university student – I was LIVINNNGGG!)
But clearly my body needs a little more help than most. And since I’ve realised what it feels like to actually feel good (I have felt rubbish for too long to even remember), I am pledging to do everything I can to look after myself. There are actual things I can do to help! And I start with juicing. Welcome to my juicy epiphany.
Yesterday I spent the evening with a friend, Aisling, having my first juicing lesson. She’s been juicing for years and had some amazing tips – and equipment!

super fast Philips juicer and Nutribullet (juicing and smoothies are not the same!)

 
Below is just a selection of the ingredients we used to create 3 delicious juices – all including vegetables which had proven anti inflammatory powers. Juicing is an amazing way to get a wide range of vitamins and minerals the body needs in a easy digestible form – the juicer does the work so your body doesn’t have to! Essentially the same as my Elemental.. But a lot more delicious.

I have to say, it was pretty tough being so close to so much lush food!

The juices we made were all red cabbage based, a vegetable which has a proven healing track record with IDB (See Jason Vale’s Super Juice Me).Click here.

Aisling’s first recipe was: half a honey dew melon, 2 apples, cucumber and 1/2 red cabbage.
We washed the veg first before chucking it all in the super fast juicer. I know what you’re thinking – red cabbage in a juice?? Are you sure? I have to say I was sceptical too. But it actually tasted delicious (OK- yes, I had a teeny tiny sip) I really liked the sweet taste of the apples with the freshness of the cucumber. Surprisingly, I couldn’t taste much cabbage!

The second juice we tried was: 1/4 red cabbage, coriander, half bag of spinach, stalk of lemongrass, half of honey dew melon and cucumber

I found the taste of this juice a lot more savoury and to be honest, it didn’t suit my palette at all. To counter this, we added 2 apples for flavour and that definitely gave it the lift it needed for my tastebuds!

a proper green juice (froth is good!)

The third Crohn’s tailored juiced we tasted was: 3 apples, 1/4 red cabbage, thumb of ginger, half bag of spinach and half a cucumber.

This was my favourite! (OK I had teeny tastes of all 3!) The apples, cucumber and spinach were refreshing once again and then the ginger gave it a gorgeous kick. I am obsessed with the taste of ginger and has excellent anti inflammatory powers.

another purple monster

And the best thing about juicing? You can freeze! So now I have 6 gorgeous juices that I can drink when I’m able to. Ais also showed me many of the staples in her cupboards that she uses in various smoothies and juices, which is when I realised how much I have to learn. But everyone has to start somewhere, right?
If you also have a form IBD, I’d urge you to try a recipe from above or any other juice for the matter – they can only do your body the world of good. And if I’m not able to enjoy them properly at the moment, someone should be able to!
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