It’s out with the shorts, flip-flops and sunnies and in with the umbrellas, gloves and jumpers – yes, Autumn has arrived! I can’t deny that I’m a little blue over the sudden disappearance of British Summertime, but I’m determined to embrace everything that this beautiful new season has to offer… Or at least I’m going to try!

A Fresh Start

So this year autumn has coincided with my return to Loughborough University for my final year of studies – a prospect that has definitely brought with it plenty of mixed emotions. The nervous anticipation is well and truly set in my stomach, as I try to mentally prepare for what is sure to be an emotional rollercoaster of a year (there’s guaranteed to be multiple ups and downs!), but the excitement is there too. I’m trying not to let the fear of the stressful times and mid-term meltdowns cloud this excitement, and so I plan to see this year as a fresh start. This year has so much potential to be one of the best of my life, and I don’t want anything to stop that from happening! I’m dedicated to my career and am ready to embark on the next step towards it..I’m raring to try as many new things as I can, and most importantly, I’m surrounded by amazing friends, both at Loughborough and at home. Why shouldn’t this year be incredible? In the end, the only limit is myself. So I’ve set out a list of tips for myself to follow to kickstart this academic year in the best possible way (and thought that publishing them would mean I have to stick to them!):

  • Settle in: It’s been over a year since I last had to attend lectures and study for my degree (due to taking a year out to complete a placement), and so I need to get myself back into the routine. I tend to dive right in, and often get overwhelmed, so this time I’m aiming to break myself into the ‘finalist mindset’ as gently as possible
  • Find the balance: I can sometimes be a bit of an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of person who will put my heart and soul into making something work. Whether it’s work, friendships or activities, I have to go all out, but sometimes get a bit burned out. I’m hoping I’ve learnt from experience and can take a few weeks to get into my study and work routine, and balance this with my social activities and fitness regime. Focusing on just one area over the others really doesn’t work, so I know it’s important to find the right balance for me
  • Catch up!: If it hasn’t been months since I’ve seen some of my friends, then it’s probably been a year! So many of my friends went out on incredible placements last year, and so there’s plenty to catch up on. I’m sure I can manage a few pub trips and coffee dates, if I must…
  • Think me: I’m not going to say that I’m the most self-less person in the world at all, but I do try to look after and help others to the best of my ability…it’s just a shame that I can’t take my own advice sometimes! We’re all the same, it’s easier to dish it out than take it sometimes! But I’ve learnt – after endless complaints from close family and friends – that at times I need to put myself first, prioritise my needs, take care of myself. For me it’s easier said than done, but I’m determined to work on this, especially since it’s such an important year, and I can’t afford not to be on top form!

It feels great that I’ve set these goals for myself ahead of final year, but the real value comes from my commitment to them in real life. So look out for my future blog posts, where I promise to update you on how I’m getting on!

Seasonal Spirit

There’s so much to love about Autumn when you live in a country that is lucky (or unfortunate, you decide!) enough to experience all 4 seasons. We Brits love to complain about the weather, and so we eagerly anticipate the next season as a relief from the current one. I can’t say that I’m following the general consensus right now though! Whilst so many of my friends are excited about donning their new knitwear and in-season macs, I’m still stuck with the post-summer blues, dreading the miserable weather that is yet to come. But enough of that! I can’t let myself get down when there’s so much to look forward to! Seasonal produce: squash, root veg, plums, apples…so many of my favourite foods are on their way out! Cosy coffee dates are one of my absolute favourite past-times, and you can’t enjoy these any more than when it’s crisp outside! And I have to admit, I have a soft-spot for my go-to Autumn outfits: skirt, knitted jumper, heeled boots and scarf – me all over! So with so much to look forward to, why am I so reluctant to face Autumn head on?

It’s the prospect of seeing such little daylight when mornings are dark and dusk approaches in the late afternoon, and the fear of the bitingly cold breeze that’s ready to hit you like a wall when you open the door. But I suppose it’s a case of focusing on the positives more than the negatives – sounds simple, I know. What am I going to do? Embrace the positives! Everyday I’m going to include at least one of my favourite things about Autumn: starting the day with a warm, seasonal breakfast…taking a wander to the apple trees on campus and picking a few fresh delights to use in my baking…wearing my favourite scarf and gloves out for the day…meeting a friend for a coffee break after a lecture…If I want to survive this Autumn amongst the deadlines and typical ‘uni stress’ then that’s the way it’s got to go! You heard it here first, I am dedicated to making this autumn as amazing as my summer!

And though the darkness prevails in Autumn, there are still some stunning sunsets and sunrises to be seen, and the frosty weather can also make for a pretty photograph too – just one thing that I’ve been able to see the Autumnal beauty in.

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Bake the Blues Away!

This week’s Great British Bake Off had an Autumnal ‘spice’ theme to it, and I can definitely say that this inspired my latest recipe – spiced fruit and nut cookies. They were rich, soft and crumbly – perfect for an afternoon tea treat! And they were another experimental recipe – one that I can see being a hit around Christmas-time when sugar, spice and all things nice are on the menu. If I were to do anything differently, it would be to add even more fruit and nuts! So go for it if you’re a fruit and nut fan too!

Recipe (Makes 12):

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Ingredients:

  • 80g medium oatmeal
  • 180g wholemeal plain flour
  • 100g malt extract
  • 25g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 30g (2 tbsp) groundnut or coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 30g mixed dried fruit and nuts (roughly chop the nuts before adding to the mixture)

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl combine the oil, malt extract and egg.
  2. Add in the remaining dry ingredients, then carefully fold in
  3. Keep mixing until all ingredients are well-combined and a firm dough is formed
  4. Make 12 balls out of the dough, place each on a lined baking tray, and press down to form a thick disk (around 1.5cm thick)
  5. Top each with a sprinkle of extra chopped nuts, and decorate with a pattern if you wish
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 180C until golden and risen
  7. Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes (the fruit inside will be extremely hot straight out of the oven), and enjoy warm or cool – either one is delicious. If enjoying warm, a scoop of vanilla-flavoured thick yoghurt or cream would be delicious!

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These aren’t the healthiest baked goods I’ve made, but they do still contain some fairly nutritious ingredients. After my Mom recently told me about the age-old claims of the benefits of malt extract I thought I’d try using it myself in baking – and these cookies were born. From what I’ve read, it seems like malt extract can be a good source of potassium, unrefined sugar and antioxidants – so perhaps a nutritious alternative to table sugars. By using wholemeal flour I hoped to increase the fibre content and decrease the glycaemic index of the cookies, whilst the oatmeal was also used for this purpose, as well as increasing the iron, manganese and Beta-glucan content (plus the texture was nice with this addition!). The full nutritional label can be seen below:

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That’s it for this round-up post – I’m ready to tackle final year and a chilly Autumn, with the help of good comfort food, cosy clothing and a fab group of friends. Let the best year of my life begin!

-TheCookingYam

Written by TheCookingYam

I'm a BSc Sport and Exercise Science Graduate from Loughborough University, and also work as a Nutrition Advisor and recipe developer for organisations such as British Swimming, Colour Fit and Bam Organic. I'm passionate about all things food, health and fitness, and have an ambition to share my knowledge with others. Qualified with Grade Distinction in Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Sports Nutrition to support my interest in food and health for active individuals.

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