Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Brilliant Broccoli soup

I was drawn to the cover of this month's Waitrose Kitchen magazine by a picture of delicious green soup.  On closer inspection it was a broccoli soup involving mint.  Sounded interesting.

I decided to make it tonight.  On even closer inspection turns out one should really read the recipe  before deciding what's for dinner since I was missing quite a few of the ingredients, so what follows is my adapted version!

For example, the recipe says to roast 1kg broccoli chopped into florets and the stem chopped into 1cm pieces.  I didn't weigh mine, I just chopped up what I had.  

Next the recipe calls for several cloves of garlic.  Oops, I've forgotten to stock up. So I dig a half  mouldy red onion out of the cupboard and chop up the decent bits of that instead.

The broccoli and garlic/red onion (!) is put into a parchment paper lined baking tray, drizzled with olive oil and scattered with almonds.

Aah, I don't have any almonds - they're on the shopping list but I haven't yet ventured out into the world to do actual proper food shopping.  Never mind, I chuck over a handful of shredded sprouts left over from earlier instead!

a bit of salt and into the oven it goes...recipe says 200C so I do 180C on fan.

I forget to time it while cooking - the recipe says about 18 minutes until the broccoli is cooked but still green in parts so I aim for that.

Meanwhile I boil up 750ml chicken stock (the recipe says 500ml veg stock but I seem to have a lot of green stuff in the oven and don't want it too thick).

When it's all cooked it gets chucked in a blender with the zest of a lemon and the juice of 1/2 a lemon plus a handful of mint leaves - this bit I do properly!  At this point I also add about a handful of ground almonds as I do have those, instead of the blanched almonds soaked overnight, which I clearly don't have.

I blend it on full power until the broccoli has stopped being bitty  - the recipe recommends a consistency similar to double cream so that's what I go for.

I am dubious about the addition of mint and lemon and not sure how the almonds will turn out.

Answer - AMAZING!

Wow, this is my new favourite soup.  The almonds make it beautifully creamy and add an almost cheese like undertone.  The lemon and mint lift it so it's not at all farty or heavy like broccoli soup can sometimes be.  It is really really satisfying, rich and yummy.

You're supposed to serve it with a few of the roasted almonds, a charred broccoli floret, a mint sprig and a drizzle of olive oil on the top...I just ate mine :)

I think the main point here, is not to be scared to fiddle about with recipes.  There's an old adage 'don't let the perfect get in the way of the good' or something similar.  I didn't have all the ingredients for this so I couldn't have followed the recipe perfectly.  But rather than not make it at all, I just adapted here and there.  The absolute worse that can happen is that it doesn't taste as nice as the original, but since I've never tried the original, I'm none the wiser. Just get stuck in and have fun and enjoy the end result I say.

Sprouty Salad

I don't know why people don't like sprouts, other than they've only ever eaten them cooked by somebody else who doesn't like them and therefore doesn't know how to cook (or not cook) them properly.

One of the best dishes I ever made for a dinner party was a sprout salad. It was delicious.

Today, on my whole-but-still-Christmassy-food mission I decided to make another sprout salad for lunch.

120g shredded raw sprouts - do not cook them!
2 handfuls chopped walnuts
abt 2 matchbox sized pieces low fat feta
1 apple cored and chopped up
1 stick celery halved length wise and chopped
handful parmesan shavings to chuck on top

and for the dressing:
1 heaped tspn dijon mustard
juice from one wedge lemon
abt 2 capfulls of white wine vinegar
tblsp ish of olive oil
tiny drizzle honey
Sea salt & black pepper
1 egg yolk - optional but makes it more creamy and increases protein content.

Normally cheese wouldn't really be considered whole food as its original ingredients have been fiddled with somewhat but both feta and parmesan are made with unpasteurised milk so I let it slip.  You could use any other cheese with a good 'bite' such as stilton too. In fact stilton is super yummy in this salad.  If you wanted some meat it goes nicely with grilled chicken or crispy bacon bits as well.

Make sure the sprouts are good and shredded...maybe give them a quick blitz in a blender to make sure.  If you have big lumps it doesn't work as well and the dressing can't coat all the little bits of spout.

Anyway, basically mix all the ingredients of the dressing, throw all the salad bits in a bowl except the nuts and parmesan.  Pour dressing over and mix up...it should just be enough to coat but no more.  Sprinkle over a pinch more sea salt and then leave for the sprouts to mellow into the dressing a bit. They can be a bit bitter otherwise.

When you're ready to serve add in the nuts and finally scatter a few parmesan shavings and some black pepper over the top.

There you have it!

The salty cheese and the tangy mustard and lemon balance the sproutiness really well and the apple, nuts and celery add different flavour combos - a bit like a waldorf really, but yummier :).

Festive spiced smoothie

Today's challenge is to eat only whole foods - which is normally not a challenge at all but a way of life.  It seems, though, that during the festive period the trend is a very different type of eating whole foods - as in stuff the whole lot in!  Last time I looked, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, bread, milk, brandy cream, chocolates etc are neither wholesome nor unprocessed but are very definitely fiddled with quite a lot from their original state and full of all manner of chemicals and sugary naughtiness.

And whilst I do enjoy all this festive fare, I can feel it too.  Headaches and heartburn abound, the gym feels more of a struggle, sleep isn't quite so deep and various inflammations are grumbling.

So before I hit New Years Eve with aplomb tomorrow, I thought a mini clean slate might be in order first today.

First up, after the usual hot water with lemon juice, a lovely cleansing breakfast smoothie.  I make no apologies for posting so many smoothie recipes. I love smoothies, they're incredibly healthy and a really quick, easy way to cram in a load of goodness before even leaving the house. Plus there are an infinite number of different ways to make them.

Here's today's:

Blend 2 big handfuls spinach with a cup unsweetened almond milk - do this before adding the other stuff or you'll end up with bits of spinach in it instead of a nice blended consistency.

Then add in:
1 banana
1 apple (cored and sliced)
3 dates
1 dessert spoon almond butter (we use Meridian nut butters, they contain nothing but nuts and are in most supermarkets or health food shops)
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn maca powder (optional)
1 tpsn baobab powder (optional)
To increase the protein content add a scoop of hemp protein powder too.

Blend it all up until nice and smooth, you may need to add more liquid (almond milk or water) to get the right consistency and you'll need to blend it for quite a while to get the dates and the apple to blend down properly.


Next up, some kind of sprout or kale salad I think...watch this space.

Warming winter butternut soup

The other day I roasted some butternut - one of my favourite ways to enjoy butternut.  You can either cut it in half, scoop  out the seed area, drizzle with sea salt and olive oil and just roast for 30-40 mins, or chop into wedges and do the same.  I used to peel it but I don't bother anymore as the skin actually goes quite nice and crispy in the oven.  On this particular occasion I also drizzled over a spot of runny honey and added some black pepper before roasting. Think I did it on about 200C Fan.

Anyway, we only needed about half the butternut for that meal so the next day I decided to make a soup out of what was left.

This recipe is SO easy it's ridiculous.

Just roast up some butternut as above...you can play around with flavour combinations by maybe sprinkling over some cinnamon, cumin adding garlic, using honey or not, chilli flakes etc. But always use salt (sea salt if poss), olive oil and black pepper.

When the squash is nice and sticky and starting to brown around the edges, add it to a pan with some chicken stock...use enough to cook the squash in to begin with then you can add more depending on the consistency you like later.  Add a tspoon dried sage, tsp cumin, and some cinnamon - again vary to taste according to your own preferences.

I was going to add onion and all sorts but decided not to bother in the end and I'm glad I didn't as the resulting really rich, deep taste of butternut was delicious as it was.  Don't worry about the skin, having been roasted and then simmered away in the stock for a while it mushes up nicely and adds to the flavour and consistency.

I left it to simmer for about 20-30 minutes and then used a hand blender to whizz it up into a nice creamy consistency.  At this point you can add more water to get just the right consistency for you.

Finally, and this is totally optional but really adds to the flavour, once it was in bowls I drizzled over some truffle oil and added a few parmesan shavings as well as some more cracked black pepper.  You can get teeny little bottles of truffle oil in M&S which is what I use...sparingly!

There you have it, lovely, easy, healthy arming winter soup...and not a turkey in sight!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Chocolate biscuit crumb

WO WA WEE WA! I have just made something very very nice indeed!

So, as usual I was watching MasterChef and there was chocolate chocolate everywhere and I needed to get me some. 

So I decided to make something up and it went like this:

1 heaped tspoon almond butter (any nut butter will work)
Small handful whole almonds 
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
5 pitted dates 
1 tablespoon raw cacao powder

(You may need to tweak amounts according to taste and also because I'm not very exact with my measurements!)

Whizz it all up in a blender and it'll make a consistency like that chocolate soil posh chefs make, but if you squidge it up  its goey enough to hold its form. 

Then I tasted it and nearly went straight to heaven! It is outrageously delicious and tastes exactly like a posh biscuit base. 

I decided to leave it as 'soil' or a crumb rather than make it into a solid mass but I may make the leftovers into little balls of yumminess. 

Anyway, I served it sprinkled over Greek yogurt with some raspberries and enjoyed every mouthful. 

As I'm writing alex is now also appreciating his bowlful. A lot :)

It's amazing what you can do once you've learnt a few tricks with the old date/nut butter/blender combo. 

This is definitely a favourite so far and totally satisfied my MasterChef chocolate envy. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The much maligned sprout - more than just a fart bomb!

Have you ever had that feeling where you're hungry but you have no idea what you want to eat?  So you wander aimlessly around the supermarket waiting for some kind of neon flashing sign to appear in front of you announcing "here, pick me, I'm what you want!"
Well, I had that today.  Nothing looked appetising at all. None of the usual trusty favourites.  Nothing healthy.  Nothing naughty.  

N O T H I N G.

Until I walked past some sprouts.  And then I knew I HAD to eat sprouts tonight.

Except I still didn't fancy anything else and I was pretty sure Alex wasn't going to be massively impressed with a bowl of plain sprouts for tea.

So I wondered home, brain whirring, hoping something would leap into my head as the sprouts were cooking.

And miracle of all miracles it did. And weirdly, it worked.

So, here's how it went:

Sprouts cooked in a bit of garlic, sage and butter (just a bit) with a few bits bacon just for the flavour and some chestnuts.  A few red chilli flakes sprinkled over.

Left over gluten free spaghetti chopped up and chucked in a saute pan with some garlic and some lovely big meaty butter beans (from a tin).

A handful of kale torn up and chucked into that pan.

An egg chucked into that and mixed up as it cooked.

Sprouts were added, pepper was ground on top and at the last minute parmesan was finely grated in.

So, it made a sort of sprouty carbonara if you like!

Well, we did like.  The veg kept it lovely and green and healthy as well as filling, the egg and the beans provided the protein, the pasta was a small component keeping it nice and light, the chilli, garlic and parmesan added a bit of a flavour kick and there was a small smidgeon of relatively healthy fats in there too.

I love messing about making things up like this.  I think sprouts are something most people only ever see on Christmas day.  Probably over cooked too, thus resulting in what Michael McIntyre describes as 'fart bombs', which is nice.  Not only does that give them a bit of a bad name but I'm willing to bet not many people bother to try them in any other way at any other time.  A few new year's eves ago I made a delicious raw brussel sprout salad.  Granted, it sounds vile, but it was one of my favourite dishes that whole Christmas...Google it and try it.  I'd tell you my recipe but I can't remember it!

So, sprouts, much maligned but give them a try.

The Whiledorf salad

The other night I was staring at the chicken that we'd roasted at the weekend to provide quick and easy protein for our meals during the week, and I thought to myself, "I really don't want another chicken salad." 

So then I stared into the fridge for a few minutes. 

And I stared into the cupboard for a while too. 

Eventually, after several more rounds of staring, a meal started to form in my head. 

I remembered a while ago I used to make a really nice miso soup style thing with buckwheat noodles, chicken and lightly steamed broccoli, and I remembered I used to scatter a few blueberries on the top.
Which sounds disgusting but it was really nice.  The blueberries, apart from being insanely good for you (I watched a program once where people who ate blueberries as their afternoon snack increased their brain function or concentration or similar by about 1 gazillion percent for the rest of the day - caveat, I may not have got the statistics of that exactly right.), they're yummy and unlike lots of other fruit, not too sweet.  They have a great earthy taste and they add just the right element of zing to an otherwise quite flat dish.

So, there began my salad for that night.  

Instead of buckwheat noodles I started with a base of grains - one of my famous packets of 'gravel', perfect for such an occasion.  I think this one was just a mixture of red quinoa, buglar, freke.  Just enough to add a bit of bite.  

Then I added some broccoli I had blanched in boiling water for just a few minutes and then plunged straight into cold water afterwards.  This keeps it lovely and green and al dente...nobody likes slodgey fart flavoured broc in their salad.

Next came an apple (my favourite, pink lady) chopped into pieces and some celery before tearing up some roast chicken and adding that too.

Finally I crumbled a few walnuts over the top for our healthy fat stress busting component and a little earthy taste with a good old crunch.

I decided not to use any dressing or seasoning as I wanted it to stay really fresh and crisp and for all the individual vibrant flavours to stay in tact.

And all that staring into cupboards and fridges paid off as not only was it very tasty, it also felt super healthy and it was really satisfying because of all the different flavours and textures.

I used to absolutely HATE any type of fruit near any sort of savoury food (I'm thinking duck a l'orange, sultanas in coronation chicken..bleurgh), but done like this in a really simple, fresh and non sweet way, it really does chuck a different spin on the boring old chicken salad.
So,I'm calling this, my twist on another classic featuring apples and walnuts, the Whiledorf salad!

Butternutty about squash

One of my favourite foods that I haven't actually written much about yet is butternut squash. 

This yummy squashy veg of wonder is fab in so many different ways.  You can roast it, mash it, make it savoury or sweet (delish wth cinnamon and low fat cream cheese), chuck it in a smoothie, slop it in a soup, pop it in a salad, curry it (super yum) or stuff it as I did the other day.

I used to get really fed up with peeling the bnut since it's a wonky shape and is quite a tricky little beggar, but then I decided it didn't really need peeling and life has never quite been the same ever since.  If you're roasting, leave the skin on and then either just eat the skin or peel off later, same for mashing, roast it in the skin, then scoop out the flesh.  Only time it needs peeling first really is for a soup if the bnut is going straight into the pot and not being roasted first.

The version I made the other night was super simple and took advantage of a load of random bits left over from other meals.

All I did was cut the squash in half and hollow out the tiny little seed area bit.  I drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and rubbed a garlic clove all over it...it's yummy roasted with garlic and red onion too by the way but I was too lazy for that on this occasion. 

I roasted it for about 30 mins first at 200 degrees to make sure it was really nice and gooey and browned.

Meanwhile I made the stuffing from:
left over roast chicken
left over cooked quinoa / frekeh / lentils
crumbled feta
A dollop of left over humus and another of edamame and mint dip

I mixed all the ingredients together, piled them into the bnut's little hole and then popped it back into the oven for another 10 mins or so just to heat it all through.
It was YUMMY.

Admittedly nobody else in the world is likely to ever have the same mix of leftovers as I had on that occasion but that's not the point.  The point is a stuffed butternut squash is a really easy supper and as long as you have a squash and a few other random little bits, you're away.

Butternut's are full off minerals and vitamins.  They're full of dietary fibre so nice and filling and satisfying without being full of calories and as you can see by their lovely orange colour, they're also full of beta-carotene amongst lots of other good stuff.  
In fact, they're all round pretty amazing and if they're not already on your shopping list, they should be.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Quick nutty pud

I've just watched Master chef and really fancied a pudding. 

So I made one. It took about 3 minutes and was delicious. 

All I did was put 2 heaped teaspoons almond butter (you cld use peanut butter), about 5 pitted dates, a handful of almonds, a glug of pure maple syrup and a generous sprinkle of oatbran (you could use oats) in my mini blender and whizzed it all up until it mushed together and held its shape but there were still nice chunks of fruit and nut in it. 

It was so delicious, kind of like a nut brittle come florentine biscuit, that I nearly ate the whole lot out of the pot instead of dishing it up...and sharing it with Alec although his portion was severely diminished by said pot chomping. 

Anyway, once it had made it's way safely into a bowl it was accompanied by some trusty Greek yogurt and was duly wolfed down. 

Yum. Quick, simple, whole food nutty yumminess. 

I don't have a photo because a it looked like brown nutty stuff, not very attractive. Oh, and the real reason is because I just wanted to eat it not photograph it!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Trick or Treat Autumn Smoothie

Today is Christmas day.

Well, ok, no it isn't.  But it is at my mum's house as my brother leaves to rejoin his ship in the Navy in a few days and won't return until May time thus missing out Christmas, New Year, Easter and my birthday in the process...come to think of it, we should make today my birthday as well, I'll mention it.  Anyway, because of all of that he has declared it Christmas lunch day today and we shall be gorging, I mean delicately nibbling on a full turkey dinner.

Which means I don't really want a great big breakfast.

Which means a smoothie is perfect.

And given that it's not really Christmas at all (although looking at Five's TV schedule you'd be forgiven for thinking it was), but actually looking like Autumn for once, and that Halloween still hangs in the air, I thought I'd make an Autumn pumpkin type smoothie.

The trick is the fact that rather than dash outside and chop up what's left of the slightly mouldy and probably rat infested pumpkin I carved the other day, I've used canned pumpkin.  I thought such a delight was only bestowed upon our cousins state side but seems I was wrong and picked some up the other day in my local Tesco Metro.

The treat comes in the drinking. It's yum.

So, I bunged some bits in the blender but this time I actually attempted to remember what they were so I could share on here, as follows:

-1 cup almond milk (any milk will do)
-1 banana
-6 dates
-1 laden table spoon pumpkin puree (it may have been closer to 2 really)
-1/2 an apple, skin on but the yukky core bit chopped out...you could chuck a whole apple in but I had 1/2 lying around from yesterday
-1/3 cup oats (leave those out if intolerant, obvs)
-a teeny tiny splash of pure maple syrup (not the maple flavoured stuff)
-a tspn cinnamon
-a tspn mixed spice (who am I kidding? I didnt measure the spices, I just chucked them in)
-2 dessert spoons greek yogurt
-1 tspn peanut butter (preferably a nice kind that's literally just peanuts and not full of sugar, salt or putrid palm oil...check your jar)
-optional: 1 tbspn maca powder (that was an accident, the packet tipped over and more went in, probably should be a tspn but it didn't matter, I like the taste, it's kind of a malty butterscotch taste.)

All you need to do is just whizz it all up in a blender and hey presto, abracadabra you have yourself a delicious smoothie.

The husband is a bit old school and still thinks food should need chewing and can't be doing with just drinking his meal so I also toasted him up a cinnamon bagel (and then ate some myself as was jealous of the smell!)

The only problem for me was the lack of green stuff so I'm going to make myself a green juice in a minute to make up for it.

Anyway, an all round resounding success I'd say.

Happy Halloween/Autumn/Christmas and Happy Birthday to me!


Thursday, 30 October 2014

Evening to morning quinoa

I've written about quinoa before and how much I love it.  If you haven't tried it, do.  It works like a sort of couscous/rice type thing but is actually a high protein grain and is more closely related to spinach and beetroot than any actual cereal.  It's nutritionally better for you than other cereals and grains too being high in amino acids.  It's now very readily accessible in pretty much all supermarkets too.

Anyway, I decided to make a quinoa, kale, avocado and chicken salad for dinner last night by lightly wilting some kale leaves in coconut oil, chopping up an avocado and tearing some chicken off a ready roasted one we made earlier in the week, and mixing it all into about a cup of freshly made quinoa (see my earlier Quinoa Queen post about how to cook it nicely).  For a dressing I put 1 tspn miso paste, a few drizzles of tamari sauce (a wheat free soy sauce type thing, also readily available), a small drizzle of olive oil, a splash of water and the juice of 2 lemon wedges in a jar and shook it all up.  I drizzled that and mixed it all up together, served and sprinkled on a few parmesan shavings and walnuts.  That was it! It made 2 portions.

But, I'd purposefully made too much quinoa in the first place which mean that I had more than enough for my breakfast this morning too.

That might sound odd, but quinoa makes a lovely porridge type dish.

All I did for breakfast was add 1/2 cup of the cooked quinoa to a pan with about 1/2 cup coconut milk - not the canned type, the stuff in cartons as a milk alternative.  You can use almond milk or anything really but I fancied coconut today.  Then basically just heat it up for a bit.  The milk won't all get absorbed but it will gradually turn a bit creamier.  Towards the end of the cooking time I also added the juice of half a lime (don't forget to roll the lime on the counter top first to make it easier to get the juice out) to complement the coconut. And that's it!

You can top with what you like but I used a few different berries, 1/2 a magnesium rich, seratonin inducing banana, a drizzle of pure maple syrup, a spoonful of greek yogurt and a few walnuts for extra crunch and added omega 3, ALA and any number of other wonderful walnutty healthy benefits.

It tastes like a cross between rice pudding and porridge with a bit more bite and is lovely and sweet and creamy but without being heavy or stodgy.

So, there we go, quinoa 2 ways from dinner to breakfast.  Now, what's for lunch...

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Cheat's Millionaire's Chocolate Ginger Pot

On Friday night Alex and I decided to have a 'nice' meal in rather than go out.  We went a bit lardacious for the main meal itself opting for a beef wellington we'd been lusting after in M&S for a while.  I lightened the whole affair a little by making yummy mashed cauliflower instead of potato (So nice, chop cauli, steam, mash with dijon mustard & a sprinkle of parmesan) and I rustled up some green cabbage with chestnuts and bacon. Yum.

But I also fancied a pudding.  There were loads of things in M&S that looked lovely, but I didn't fancy the bloaty yukiness they'd bring, especially after the main we'd lined up.

So I decided to make my own!

Ever since making the sweet potato brownies the other week I've been wanting to try something chocolatey and gingery and decided that's what I'd go for.  I also wanted to bring in an element of one of Alex's favourites, millionaires chocolate shortbread.

So, I created a nutty biscuit base topped with a creamy caramelly type layer, with a deep rich chocolate layer on top.  I was SO happy with the results.  Very very tasty, deliciously chocolatey but without any nasties.

And it went like this...Actually before I tell you, a note...I totally made this up as I went along and fiddled and adapted as I went.  Don't be afraid to do the same, it won't hurt anybody.  Just find what works for you!

First layer:
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pecans
6 pitted dates
tablespoon pure maple syrup
tablespoon almond butter

2nd layer:
1/2 banana
1 tablespoon water
1 tbspoon maple syrup
5 dates

top layer:
1 avocado
3 tbspoons raw cacao powder
5 dates
thumb sized bit ginger
pure maple syrup to taste

to serve:
greek yog & berries

So, first of all whizz up the nuts in a blender and then add the dates, syrup and nut butter.  It should get a bit sticky and hold together slightly so add dates/syrup/nut butter if that doesnt happen...I did fiddle about a bit adding a few more bits until I liked the consistency.

I then pressed this mixture down into the bottom of 2 glasses - I had LOADS left and have been eating  it sprinkled on yogurt ever since, it's delicious.

Next, whizz up all the 2nd layer ingredients.  Bearing in mind the dates can be quite stubborn in the blender.  I added too much water to begin with so be careful, it doesn't want to be runny, it needs to sit on top of the biscuit and then support the chocolate layer that comes next.  I added some nuts/nut butter to stiffen up the consistency once I'd already made it too watery but could have avoided that by adding the water a bit at a time. Once you're happy with it, add that ontop of the nutty bottom layer, leaving room for the chocolate bit coming next and then stick it in the freezer so it can set a little bit.

Lastly, to make the chocolate layer I used an avocado for the creaminess and raw cacao powder (you can get it in health food shops or on amazon).  I added more cacao as I felt the brownies the other day weren't chocolatey enough and also because i wanted the top layer to be quite deep to counteract the sweetness of the other layers.  The result was a very deep rich chocolate mousse but it wasn't sweet enough hence adding the dates and the maple syrup to get it to a taste I was happy with.  This took ages as the dates just wouldn't blend but I got there in the end!  Then I just kept chopping up little bits of ginger and adding it until I was happy with the strength of the ginger kick.

After about half an hour, I put the chocolate mixture on top of the rest and put in the fridge.

When it came to serving, I then put a blob of creamy greek yogurt on top and finished with a few berries.

Stupidly, I used red glasses so you can't really see the layers but trust me, it was absolutely delicious and I was super proud of myself for making it all up thanks to following some recipes recently that used dates and nuts in this way.  Can't wait to see what I come up with next!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Buck up your breakfast

Just in case I haven't mentioned it enough in various places, I've been off poorly these last few days.  So, it's been super important that I focus on eating right.  By right I mean making sure I'm both  getting lots of lovely nutrients and vitamin C and what have you for my cold as well as avoiding things I know increase mucus production (sorry, not pretty) so I don't make things worse.  Dairy, for example, is a great snot producer and so is being avoided.  On the other hand to help speed recovery from sciatica, I also need to make sure I'm getting lots of foods with lovely clever anti-inflammatory properties and conversely avoid foods that tend to feed inflammation.  So, for example, foods high in sugar and fat are quite inflammatory but so is beef and dairy again.  Whereas whole grains and green leafy veg have anti-inflammatory properties. As do some spices like cumin, ginger and turmeric.

Add to that I'm feeling a bit fed up and my appetite is a bit all over the place thanks to feeling crummy, weird sleep patterns from coughing all night and various pills I'm taking... and suddenly deciding what to have for breakfast has become a major mission.

Normally I make a green smoothie, bottle it up and take it to work to drink while I set my room up ready for the children to arrive.

But this week the thought of a green smoothie couldn't be any less appetising for some reason.

I fancy something hot.  But it has to have greens in...I've now got a a bit obsessive about getting veg into my breakfast!

So, the first day I have poached eggs on some crumpets my mum's husband very kindly brought round the other day when I was totes incapacitated and house bound. (Don't worry, he bought other things too, a girl can't survive on crumpets alone, although I have tried on occasion.)  But these weren't just any eggy crumpets, they were eggy crumpets nestled on a mound of fresh spinach.

Excellent. (or should that be eggsellent!?).  That's protein and dark leafy greens nailed in one breakfast and it was warm so that's that box ticked.

Second day, I don't fancy that again and anyway while it was yummy, it could have been healthier.

What I really fancy is porridge but that would be disgusting with spinach added in. Plus I'm now refusing to eat porridge until I find some steel cut oats instead of rolled ones.  I bought some whole oat groats online but that turns out to have been an accident since they take an hour to cook which isn't massively convenient.

And then...ping! goes my email.  A post from the wonderful Ella of Deliciously Ella and once more she has come to my rescue with banana buckwheat porridge!

Woop Woop! As, not only do I have 15 sacks of oat groats I shan't be using, I also have some magnesium full buckwheat from the same online place.  Plus this recipe has manuka honey in it which is touted as being some super mega food fab at fighting infection and inflammation (although I may need to bathe in my porridge for that effect, not sure), and baobab fruit which has loads of vit C and and and and...

You can read Ella's full blog post and recipe, as well as all the fab healthful benefits of all the ingredients here.

Anyway, my quick round up of the recipe goes like this:

As it's for 2 I halved everything.  The smell wafting out from the pot as soon as I added the (potassium rich) banana and (mood and energy regulating) cinnamon was soooooooo scrummy. It smelt like a cross between autumn and Christmas!  Anyway, I followed the recipe all the way through and found that after about 20 mins cooking like the recipe said the buckwheat still had quite a bite to it and I fancied something a bit more stodgy.  So, I added some coconut milk at this point and cooked it some more just to see what would happen, and it did soften a bit more so it depends on the texture you're after as to how much you'd want to cook it for I reckon.

I also added the almond butter and the baobab as Ella suggests.  I've no idea if the baobab made any difference to taste, but I had some and it's supposed to be super good for you so there we go.  The almond butter on the other hand.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  That was a game changer.  What a gooey, unctuous, delicious, creamy, warming, bowl of happiness that made!

I added some fresh berries to the top of mine, raspberries as they're good for regulating appetite, blueberries as they're just the god of all berries (and are good brain food, my brain needs feeding right now), and strawberries which have one of the highest concentrations of vit C around.  I also added a few pecans just for a little crunch.

It was delish.  Absolutely, totally yummy.  Ella says it's like a hug in a bowl and she's not wrong! It was exactly what I was craving and it totally hit the spot.  What's more, I wasn't at all hungry again for a good 4 hours, I didn't feel stuffed or bloaty or anything. Just nice and warm :).

However,  I don't know if anybody else spotted it, but there is definitely a distinct lack of green veg going on here. But never, fear. I whipped out the old juicer and made myself the most yummy, refreshing and zingy juice from 2 apples, a handful of kale (which is a right bugger to get through the juicer but will go if you're persistent!), a handful of spinach and about a thumb sized lump of the wonderful ginger.

So, there it was, a healthful, wholefoods, superfood, warming breakfast complete with super cold busting green juice.  It was SO good, I made exactly the same thing the next day too!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Brownies, all the yum and none of the guilt

A little while ago I discovered the Deliciously Ella blog and was instantly hooked.  I love everything about it, not least the amazing recipes.  Ever since I've been wanting to try out these little babies but couldn't find buckwheat flour anywhere.  Then the other week I just decided to search online and found this website where I found all sorts of whole food goodies and snapped up some buckwheat flour no probs.

But I forgot to make the brownies.

Until this article from MindBodyGreen popped up on my facebook feed yesterday. So, fed up from lying on the sofa all day and in need of a reason to stand up and move about gingerly (still suffering with sciatica), not to mention needing cheering up, I decided what better time to give these a whirl.

My love of Ella quadrupled when I realised I could just download the app and then pull up the recipe there on my phone (excellent) but for everybody else, here's the link to the recipe on her website.

It will take a bit of making sure you've got all the right bits and pieces as the recipe calls for the aforementioned buckwheat flour, raw cacao powder and sweet potatoes amongst other things but the more I cook like this the more I have such things to hand and now, ready armed with the buckwheat flour I had everything I needed.

The only problem I had with the method itself was one I've encountered before with smoothies, and that's that dates don't like being blended.  I decided to use my mini blender rather than my Kitchen Aid upright but that may have been a mistake as the dates just got flung about the bottom of the thing rather than obligingly being chopped up into smithereens.  This meant that rather than the creamy sweet potato/date mixture I should have had, I had a slightly less creamy mixture with random chunks of sweet potato and date here and there.

My next minor issue came when I spread the mixture across the 'lined baking dish' as suggested, I realised it was spread much much thinner than a) a normal brownie would be and b) Ella's example in her photos.  So a note about the size of dish may have helped here. I'm not sure I know what a 'baking dish' actually is but I used my normal oven baking tin.  Next time, I won't! I'll choose something smaller but deeper.

Finally method wise, the recipe says to cook for 20-30 minutes but actually I reckon 30-40 would be better.  I checked at 20 and 25 and then did another 5 minutes before the fork came out clean and actually, would probably have liked them a little crunchier on the top...maybe longer cooking would't have achieved that but think I'll experiment a bit next time.

So, having cooked them and patiently waited the 10 minutes before I was allowed to chop them up and taste them, I greedily gobbled one (ok, 3, mine were only small) up.  YUM.  Decided to do it properly and had another on a plate with some greek yog and some raspberries.

So, the verdict:  they are gooey, moist and delicious.  Chocolatey and sweet but not sickly or heavy like brownies would normally be.  I think maybe next time I'd add a tiny smidgeon more cacao just to make sure I'm really satisfying that deep chocolate hit, but only a little as it was pretty good already.

I was just sitting here thinking about how I could experiment and fiddle about with the recipe to make different versions (maybe banana, coconut, ginger, beetroot?  Beetroot makes a great chocolate cake...) when I've spotted Ella has another brownie recipe on her blog now for chilli and beetroot brownies...definitely trying those and think I'll try a ginger concoction of my own too. Watch this space!

Anyway, overall a definite winner. Thanks Ella!

Fego's Feasting

I may have mentioned previously loving weekend breakfasts.  At least once every weekend we'll say "ooh, shall we go out for breakfast today?" and then spend the next 2 hours trying to think of somewhere to go.  There are loads of places, but only one that quite meets the bill.  There are loads of places we can get a full English.  Several less that also do pancakes.  But only one that actually serves healthful, interesting whole food.  And that is Fego's in Marlow.

It is such a fantastic place with such a brilliant menu - only problem is that everybody else agreed so there's often a queue out the door.

Anyway, if you do get in you're spoilt for choice from a lovely zingy green smoothy, to  spicy eggs  with vegetables and haloumi, to an omelette, pancakes, croissant with avocado and salmon and so the list goes on.
This weekend, I am both incapacitated at home and sans husband so won't be going anywhere at all, let alone the lovely Fegos so I am amusing (or torturing!?) myself looking at these photos I've taken on previous visits.


Think I know where I'll be heading next weekend...

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Debunking a few myths in one sitting

I don't mean to brag, but I just cooked one of the most yummiests meals ever.  Here it is:

It was indulgent, warming, autumn comfort food at it's best.  And it was healthy. Oh, and super quick.


If you ask most people what 'healthy' food looks like they'll probably talk about salads and the like.  Vegetable sticks and humus, fruit salad. That kind of thing.

It probably wouldn't conjure up images of creamy mash, steaming gravy and hunks of stick to your ribs meat.

But that's where they'd be wrong.

Tonight's dinner was all of those things, and consisted of:

Venison steaks - higher in protein, vitamins and iron than beef and very low fat, not to mention incredibly tasty and quick and easy to cook.  I simply heated some butter, browned all over for 2 minutes then turned the heat down and cooked on each side for a further 2-3 minutes for rare steaks.

NB debunking a butter myth - it is not the devil.  We definitely don't need to eat piles of butter all day every day, but using it in moderation where needed is fine.  Our brains do respond to how satisfying our food is as well and there is no way of replacing the depth or richness of flavour or the silky texture of a sauce made with butter.  Years of experience has taught me that scrimping on these things with good intentions is a false economy.  If your food isn't satisfying, all you want to do is stuff your face afterwards.  Just be sensible with it.  Plus, butter is a totally natural product, no manmade nasties or chemicals anywhere.  Moderation and all that.

Anyway, moving on, we also had red cabbage (full of protective phyto-nutrients).  I'd always thought of cabbage as something quite annoying and slow to cook but I was wrong.  All you need do is chop it up into strips, chuck it into a wok with coconut oil (or whatever oil you have), and stir fry for a bit.  It's lovely if you retain a bit of the crunch and even lovelier if you chuck some freshly squeezed orange juice at it.

I also added a few handfuls of kale into the pan after the cabbage was nearly ready.  Kale is like the king of superfoods, the queen of greens and it's health benefits are almost endless.  It cooks up super quick just flash fried.

NB debunking a frying myth - deep fat frying, ok, not great.  But heating up quickly in some coconut oil, or dry frying or adding a splash of water to the frying pan are super quick easy and healthy ways to get stuff cooked quick.

And finally, the piece de resistance, the icing on the cake, the yummiest of yum on this plate.

The mash.

Or, the cauliflower mash to be precise.

I kid ye not it is the most delicious thing ever. EVER.  I seriously don't know why anybody eats mashed potato with this on offer.

Please just try it.

'It' being:

Chop up a head of cauli.  Steam til al dente.  Chuck on about 2 tspoons grated parmesan, 1 tspoon dijon mustard and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Mash up.

Moan with delight as you taste its supreme yuminess.

Bung it all on a plate with some gravy you just rustled up by adding port/whisky/red wine type stuff to the pan you cooked the venison in and enjoy.

Totes delish, totes healthy, super quick and about as warming, comforting and satisfying as you can get without any of the lardiness.


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Polenta Please

I always like to make a thing of breakfast at the weekends.  During the week Alex and I have breakfast separately and I always just whizz up a green smoothie of some description for mine,  So at the weekends I like to make us both something yummy to have together, or we go out for a brunch somewhere.  I love to experiment with new things and ingredients and recipes as well, whether it be buckwheat pancakes, quinoa granola or today's new find, polenta porridge.

I spotted this recipe yesterday and decided it would work well for a quick but nice warming breakfast this morning so decided to give it a go as I had some polenta languishing in the cupboard from a few months back.

The recipe says to use water and
skimmed milk but I used water and almond milk,  I did consider using coconut milk and think I will try that next time to add a slightly different dimension...maybe with a bit of lime.  Anyway, it was super easy, just boil up the water and milk, slowly whisk in the polenta then leave it to sit for 5 minutes before chucking on whatever you fancy for breakfast.

We added unsweetened greek yogurt (which just tastes like double cream to me it's so yummy), raspberries, honey, and a blob of blueberry jam I found in the cupboard and fancied trying.  I also added walnuts just for a bit of texture as it was all looking a bit mushy and ploppy so far and I thought the extra crunch would  balance it a bit better.

Taste wise, polenta is fairly unassuming so it just sort of tasted warming and comforting and it took on all the flavours of the other bits we topped it with beautifully.

I found the quantities in the recipe ever so slightly generous but that might have been all the toppings I added.

It was defo a really good, interesting, lighter alternative to porridge.  Having eaten it it definitely feels easier on the old tum tum than oats and I'm looking forward to experimenting with different flavours and whatnot with this one.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Smooth Operator

I'm getting quite good at this green smoothie lark now.  Occasionally I do have a bit of a smoothie disaster. Like, for example, earlier this week, when I discovered that if you lose a cherry stone whilst making a cherry cacoa smoothie, it's probably fallen into the blender and will therefore get munched up into very annoying sharp chunks all the way through your smoothie making it nearly impossible to drink. Mega fail.

 However, I made up for it today as I put into practice two, slightly more useful, lessons I also learned this week:

1. Using water as the liquid base sounds boring and revolting but actually produces a really fresh, light smoothie where you can really taste all the other flavours;

2. Whizzing up the greens and liquid first before adding the other stuff gives a much smoother, better finish without random bits of spinach floating around.

With those 2 in mind I decided to cobble a green smoothie together after the gym today.  I had some mango in the fridge so wanted to use that and fancied putting some nut butter in too. Most importantly I wanted it to taste really fresh and vibrant. So after a quick rifle round the kitchen I came up with the following which made 2 generous servings:

2 cups filtered water
2 cups spinach
1 cup mango
1 banana 
1 dessert spoon almond butter
1/2 avocado
1 tble spoon macca powder

I didn't add any hemp protein powder as there was plenty of protein in our lunch. I didn't use almond milk or too much banana/fruit/nut butter as I wanted to keep it quite clean tasting. 

The result was super yummy! It was lovely and smooth and creamy (I hate them too watery), with a delicious fruity taste and a hint of bananary-nutty yumminess without being at all heavy or stodgy. The texture was great given I whizzed up the spinach first. 

Alex agreed it was defo a success! And not a dismembered cherry stone in sight.

Think I'll be making this one again. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Rainbow bright

We were sposed to have morrocan chicken soup for tea tonight, but I just didn't fancy a bowl of heavy, chickpea laden, brown plop.  I stared into the fridge trying to conjure up some sort of alternative and spotted a nice bunch of asparagus that I suddenly did fancy.

I grabbed a couple of other brightly coloured bits from the veg and salad drawer, unearthed some feta and some chicken slices for a bit of protein, lightly steamed the asparagus and after a quick drizzle with some left over mustard dressing, we had ourselves a meal.

A veg packed, multicoloured, full of nutrients and flavour meal in a jiffy. So much lighter than the soup option which can wait for another night. 

Happiness on a plate!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chinese fake-away

Some nights are just chicken fried rice nights and there's no getting away from it. 

So whilst what I'm about to share may not be the 'best' nutrition wise, it is certainly a million times 'better' than the Noodle Nation equivalent I could have fallen victim to. 

And it was much quicker and cheaper. 

It helps to have a cupboard full of 2 minute microwave brown rice and a ready roasted chicken - 2 things always to be found in our house for such occasions. 

So, all I did was very quickly stir fry up some broc, kale and spring onion in coconut oil and cook the rice in aforementioned microwave. Chuck one into the other, sprinkle in some chilli flakes and a flash of garlic oil ( because I'm too lazy to chop up fresh garlic tonight and so hungry - the longer it takes for dinner to be ready the more I'll have nibbled on while I wait!), drizzle some low salt soy/tamari and some sesame oil, rip up some chicken and throw that in too. At this point I realise I have no eggs - mega fail. Normally these would get scrambled up and added at this point, as would some frozen peas. Couldn't be bothered with the peas in the aftermath of the egg revelation so hey presto, dinner was served. 

Yum, cheap, quick, healthier than the alternative but still satisfying that chicken fried rice itch. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Blackberry cake of extreme yumminess

We've gone all a bit hedgerow happy recently. Alex has been busy making sloe gin and today we added a modest but plump and juicy blackberry harvest to our supplies.

I decided, in part inspired by the great British bake off no doubt, I'd like to make these blackberries into a cake of some description. A sugarless, eggless, flourless cake to be precise. A sugarless, eggless, flourless cake that tasted of coconut and almonds to be even more precise.

No pressure then! Piece of cake - well, hopefully. 

So I searched on the interweb for AGES and found nothing I liked. So, I gave up and decided to make it up myself. 

Anybody who knows baking knows this is not a wise plan. Baking is a very precise, scientific thing requiring just the right ratios of this that and the other. 

Anybody who knows gluten free, vegan, sugar free baking knows the above applies, and some. 

Anybody who knows me and my style of cooking will be expecting the worst here - I don't like measuring and fiddling about. I like chucking things in and seeing what happens. 

So I had found a recipe after all - a recipe for disaster!

HOWEVER what I managed to create was one of the most delishscrumpdyplumptious things ever EVER.

I'd love to tell you the recipe or how I did it, but I didn't write it down!

It went a bit like this:

Combine 1 cup spelt flour, 2tbs flaxseed, 1tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, cinnamon. Then I chucked 'some' ground almonds, coconut flour and dessicated coconut at it too. 

In another bowl mush up a banana, add 1 cup coconut milk, 1 cup ( ish ) apple purée and some pure maple syrup. Melt some coconut oil and add that in along with some vanilla extract and almond essence. Bung in the blackberries. 

Stir the whole lot together and chuck more wet stuff at it if it looks like it needs it. 

Told you my version was very scientific!

I baked it in a loaf tin at 180 for 35mins but it was still a bit wobblesome so I ended up cooking it for another 15 mins odd. Then left it to cool for 10mins before taking it out and stuffing it in mouth as it was SO nice. 

 Gooey, moist, sweet and fruity. Delicious on its own or with Greek yogurt. Yum yum yum and no sugar or lardy nasties in sight. 

I am really rather proud of this but expect I shall never be able to recreate it again! If anyone else manages it do let me know. :). 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Pretty on a plate

Having made up my own nectarine and goats cheese salad the other day, I decided to try and stick more closely to the Hemsley and Hemsley recipe today.

I bought some beautiful flat peaches at the local market, defrosted some peas and got going.

The original recipe has fried yellow courgettes in it but I didn't bother with those, just didn't fancy it.  I also changed the dressing as I couldn't imagine how an olive oil and balsamic dressing would work with the flavours so quickly shook up some olive oil, honey and apple cider vinegar.

It looked SO nice.  I just wanted to sit and look at it. I even got my best plates out in honour of it's prettiness.

So, even though I already posted about my first self concocted version of this salad, I feel compelled to post about this even prettier version with about 8 million photos of its loveliness.


Since Alex mentioned there was a new yogurt out made just from coconut milk, I was looking forward to trying it.  He found one in Clerkenwell Waitrose the other day so bought two.


It is SO delicious.  Creamy, coconutty yuminess.

But, at £1.60 each and 13g of sat fat per 100g (and a pot is 125g), it's not exactly the light option where either the wallet or the waistline are concerned.

One for the odd treat pile I think...

...or maybe I'll just try making me own.  Watch this space ;)

Something for the Weekend

Whilst I normally make myself a smoothie for breakfast during the week, at the weekends I like to make something a bit more special and brunchy for the both of us.

I love an indulgent breakfast, whether it's eggs benedict on a lovely, squashy muffin, or a big fat almond croissant or a stack of pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. Mmmmmm.

What I don't love, though, is how eating those things tends to make me feel.  Mostly greasy, dirty, sluggish and bloated.  With a headache.  Nice.

So, I like to find ways of creating delicious, indulgent breakfasts that taste just as yummy and feel like as much of a treat as their naughtier cousins, but are in fact much, much nicer to my mood and body. Sometimes that's by making things up myself, other times it's following recipes, or a bit of both.

Today we settled for pancakes and chose a grain free pancake recipe using coconut flour which you can find here.  I had some coconut flour in the cupboard from an experimental banana bread I made a while back so I dug it out.

I fully intended to follow the recipe properly as pancakes can be a bit funny, but Alex mentioned getting some flaxseed into the mix so I did.  Only the packet sort of slipped in my hand and I ended up chucking rather a lot more flax in than I intended which meant the mixture then looked a bit dry.  Having seen a load of recipes for greek yogurt pancakes earlier this morning I decided to counteract that dryness by chucking in a few spoonfuls of greek yogurt too.  So now nowhere near the original recipe. Oh well.

Anyway, they did take quite a long time to cook and didn't hold their shape that well.  That could be the coconut flour as it is a tricky one, or it could be my flax addition.

Texture wise they weren't as light as they could have been or others that we've tried...but again that could be because we totally fiddled with the recipe!

However, once we'd chucked on some berries, greek yogurt and pure maple syrup, it was just the yummy, indulgent, filling breakfast we wanted without any of the manky side effects or guilt of its less healthy alternative.  (Still prefer the banana and almond meal version I made once before, if only I could find the recipe...)

Go-to Gravel

Well what a busy week.

Have swum in lakes and rivers, cached like a mad thing (25 in one day at one point!), kayaked in the pouring rain, walked in the countryside and spent an entire, sweltering day sorting out the garden.  Today's mammoth kayaking jaunt saw us in the thing for nearly 4 hours, against the wind and the current and up a cut that looked anything but navigable.  But we survived and saw 2 kingfishers in return, even if it did mean not eating lunch until about 5pm.

So, not massively surprising that my back, which had mentioned to me earlier in the week that I ought to just be careful, decided to pay me back and seized up with a vengeance.

Which meant that when Alex came home, quite rightly in search of dinner, there wasn't any.

"It's ok, I'll just get a takeaway" he offered.  "No", I said, best wifely martyr face on, "I'm sure I can rustle something or other together."

My favourite (shop bought) dressing
Determined not to be beaten by any of aforementioned setbacks, I shuffled about the kitchen grabbing a selection of random things and assembled them on a plate.  I say random, I did at least attempt to make sure there was a vegetable contingent and a protein contingent (got to love keeping a stash of tinned beans of various descriptions for such moments). Luckily my husband is not of the variety that insists on there being meat on the plate before it is deemed meal worthy.

Turns out I accidentally made a decent enough salad in less time than it would have taken to say "chicken fried rice" (which I guarantee he would have said, had I not made him dinner).  Thanks to a packet of ready made gravel, without which it would have been a bit light and empty and husband would have been hungry again a few minutes later.

Gravel is what my mum and brother label any kind of weird (to them) and wonderful (to me) grain/pulse/wheat type concoction they find in my fridge. I think today's mix included quinoa, blugar wheat, lentils and soy flakes (which sounds vile but is nice).  Apparently my brother was once heard declaring

"There's no point looking for stuff to eat in Emma's fridge, all she has in there is gravel."

Well, gravel saved the day today and will continue to remain a staple in my basked and my fridge so there.

Friday, 1 August 2014

A date with dates


There are no words to describe how absolutely delicious the smoothie I just made was.

I was lying in bed perusing my pinterest board trying to decide what to have for breakfast.  Give the smoothies a rest and just have berries and greek yogurt?  Try the fruit salad with avocado that a good friend recommended to me yesterday on the back of my avocado post? Some variety of clever gluten/egg/etc free pancake?  Something to do with the coyo (yogurt made with coconut milk) that Alex bought me home yesterday (SO excited to try that), a wholemeal bagel with peanut butter (may have overindulged a tad last night, not sure the berries are quite going to cut it!)...

Then I remembered a whole heap of recipes I've seen using dates recently and that I had bought some the day before to experiment with a few, so I ended up settling on this recipe for a banana, date and almond shake on DeliciouslyElla.

Woah Wah Wee Wah!

Translated as gosh, that really was incredibly yummy.

You can follow the link above for the actual recipe.

As per usual, I didn't really bother with the whole recipe, measuring thing.  I had a brief glance at the ingredients then just sort of went from there.  I had actually run out of almond milk so I substituted with coconut milk...not the stuff in a tin, you can buy it in cartons like almond milk, soya etc as a dairy alternative.  Alpro have just started doing one available in supermarkets but there are several other brands such as Koko.  I bought some maca powder yesterday having never tried it before so seeing the recipe suggested adding some for added energy, and feeling in need of any help I can get in that area thanks to a busy week, not sleeping so well and mild over indulgence last night, I went for it.

When I first made it using the ingredients suggested, I found it quite runny (I may have used too much milk given I couldn't be bothered to get the measuring cup out to do it accurately!), so I added half a trusty avocado which not only added a few more super nutrients, but also made it super thick and creamy.

Good enough for an early morning, unwashed, no make-up selfie!
I have to tell you, it was so so delicious.  If, like me and my brother, you used to (pah, who am I kidding? Still do!) like licking the bowl/spoon when mum made cakes, then you will LOVE this.  I'm not joking, it tasted exactly like that gorgeous indulgent cake mix taste.  It didn't last very long in my glass!

The only thing is, I'm not as convinced health wise about this one.  I know the ingredients are all very good for you and are full of lots of lovely healthful benefits but I'm a little bit funny about any kind of dried fruit because of the high sugar content, so coupled with the sugar from the banana and the fat from both the nut butter and avocado (which admittedly I added myself), it certainly doesn't pack as much of a healthful punch as the green smoothies I normally drink.  To be honest I don't really mind the fat bit, but I'm not so keen on eating so much sugar first thing in the morning.

So, I think this one will be for occasional guilt free indulgence as opposed to an every day staple.

I already know that next time I have a craving for some kind of oreo milkshake or some such other naughty concoction, I will be getting out the blender and making this instead...I might even experiment with adding some cacao next for a chocolatey kick...

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Hello sunshine

While I enjoy making up my own meals, I also collect hundreds of recipes I intend to try out one day.  This mango and cashew smoothie from DeliciouslyElla is one such recipe.  I love a smoothie for breakfast and love messing about trying new combos, but sometimes it's nice to try something tried and tested from somebody else.  Plus I absolutely LOVE mango, it is sooooooo nice. And so sunshiney yellow.

I was really looking forward to this one and had my first go yesterday.  I even bought some of the famed chia seeds I've been wanting to start trying and using (those aren't compulsory for the recipe so don't let that put you off).  I got everything in my blender ready, then realised I didn't have any limes.

As a result, the smoothie was lovely and creamy and did taste nice, but I thought it lacked something so decided to try it again this morning having now purchased said limes.

Second time round (now also with a smidge more cashews) it was definitely much better.  The recipe makes quite a big portion so very filling too!

For somebody who's been drinking green smoothies for a while, it didn't blow my socks off.  It was very nice, but no nicer than others I've had really.

BUT, for anybody who's yet to enter the green smoothie world, it's absolutely excellent.  Nothing about it tastes even vaguely green yet it has a whole big handful of spinach in it.  It tastes sweet, creamy and yummy like a milkshake or just a really nice fruit smoothie but is so so good for you.  The consistency is really lovely too thanks to the exact right mix of almond milk vs fruit, the banana and cashews ,and the chia seed gloop it up a bit nicely.

So, if eating spinach or anything else green for breakfast scares the hell out of you, or drinking vegetables sounds totally revolting to you, do try this smoothie and you'll be converted instantly.  Apart from the chia seeds all the ingredients can be found in any supermarket, big or small.  The only thing is, when buying almond milk, pick the one that says 'unsweetened' or else you're getting a whole load of added sugar for no reason.  Alpro do one which is stocked in every supermarket I've been in (some of the smaller ones might not carry the unsweetened variant but my Tesco Metro does).  If you fancy trying the chia seeds too, I got mine seeds at Holland and Barret but any health food shops or online whole food places will do them

If you're feeling brave, mess about trying different combos.  Bananas are a great base as they're so sweet and creamy, avocados have the same effect but aren't quite as sweet, spinach is a good green to add, or kale but I find it doesn't blend down as well and has a stronger taste.  In fact I think I'll try a kale and quinoa smoothie recipe I've spotted next...

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Avocado advocate

I LOVE avocado.

Ok, so for a fruit it is rather calorie and fat laden, but I don't care, it's not exactly a deep fried marsbar is it!? The fat in an avocado is the good kind, kind of like WD40 for the joints and any help I can get keeping my bits and pieces supple, I'm taking it.

Apart from having lots of vitamin C and E (good for skin), potassium, iron, folate etc, avocados are also a good way to get your vitamin B6 which is super handy for lots of reasons especially where the nervous system is involved, but the one I'm most interested in is the job it plays in mood regulation and mental function...avocado is a super happy fruit!

But apart from all of that it just tastes so yummy and is so versatile it can be used pretty much however you like.

I eat it for breakfast in my smoothies where it gives a lovely creamy thick texture without adding any weird veg taste;

I have it in salads; I spread it on toast instead of butter;  I mush it up to make a kind of guacamole;

I spoon it straight out of the skin with a squeeze of lemon juice (which tastes nice but also stops the flesh going brown.  What I had today for lunch as it happens).

I mixed it into scrambled egg the other day as well which worked surprisingly well.

 Even my most favourite sandwich ever has avocado in it.

This evening I was planning on making one of our favourite dinners.  This dinner sounds like the most boring random collection of stuff on a plate ever and I was very very dubious when I first made it, but it is so so yummy.  I don't even remember where I first saw the idea but basically all you do is this:
Chop up an avocado, a mango and a nice big beef tomato, put it on 2 plates, add some butter beans, sprinkle some light dressing over the top.

That's it.  I promise it is such a delicious combo and it is really filling despite not really having much actually in it.

Anyway, that's what I was going to make but I suddenly couldn't really be bothered.  I don't know why, it's not like it involves much of anything at all really other than throwing stuff on a plate, but sometimes I just don't really even feel like having to use a knife and fork!

So, I made our favourite sandwich instead.

Again, sounds completely rubbish and boring but is such a fab flavour combo:

Toasted wholemeal or granary or some kind of nice whole brown bread.
Whatever butter/mayo type spread you fancy (I used houmous tonight to add some protein)
Half an avo and half a big juicy tomato
sea salt & black pepper.

That's it! SO yummy. And no need for the knife and fork :).

Anybody else got any other handy avocado tips? I'd love to hear them...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Leftovers lunch

Today saw me, my brother and my grandma set off on an impromptu trip to the beach - well, a beach by a lake in the middle of Surrey but a beach nonetheless!  I had about 20 minutes to spare before they came to pick me up and I decided we needed a picnic.  I didn't fancy picking up some grotty garage sandwiches along the way but didn't really have the time or ingredients to rustle anything up.

Until I spotted the leftover quinoa from last night (see, always make too much!).

I quickly chopped up and bunged in some avocado, cherry tomatoes, parley, feta and lemon juice (all also left overs from other meals), sprinkled on some seasalt and  black pepper, chucked it in a tupperware and was all done.

Grandma and I enjoyed our lovely light summery salad lunch later on. I couldn't, however, convince my brother to partake of any 'gravel', he had a pork baguette instead :).