Month: September 2013

Lavender + Blueberry Slow Down Smoothie

lavender and blueberry smoothieWhen did it become so cool to be so busy? Have you noticed how busy everyone is and even when they’re not they’re pretending to be! But this is just what we do. When I take a look around I see – do more, get energised, kick start, jump to it, go go go, fast track – you get the picture! I’m all for being productive, getting stuff down and making the best use of my time but hang on a second, let’s not forget to……..

Slow down.

Take a moment.

Do nothing, steady ourselves, let go and just be.Slow down + relaxThis lavender + blueberry slow down smoothie is a celebration of not being busy, an ode to doing nothing. It’s a smoothie to calm, soothe, sedate and harmonise. There is no stress in this smoothie, just pure plant power.

I’ve got a big thing for lovely lavender. We go back years, so much so it’s become a running joke that I’m an old lady due to my lavender love! But I don’t care because although it sounds silly to say, lavender has been a very loyal friend. This amazing healing herb has stuck with me through thick and thin, in ups and downs, providing calming comforting vibes when I needed them most. Insomnia as a child, in times of shock, in anxious times, on grazed knees and during periods of unsettling change, lavender eased and soothed.lavender & blueberry smoothieIt’s part of my treasured sleep kit, travelling the world with me, a comforting companion at night wherever I may be. My pillow is always infused with the scent of heavenly lavender and I take it wherever I go. On our recent Canada RV trip I dropped a few drops on my pillow, creating a familiar happy and relaxing place to lay my head. I really do love lavender. We have an abundance of this violet flora blooming in the canal bank, abundant with delicate lavender flowers ready for relaxation and lavender infused blueberry slow down smoothies.

Inhaling, applying, burning, sprinkling, steaming, and bathing in this essential oil – my lavender usage knows no bounds. Until very recently, I had never thought to eat this highly edible herb and I’m not sure why because it has the most beautiful, delicate, floral aroma with violet undertones. The flavour of this lavender + blueberry smoothie reminded me of little parma violet sweets I used to eat as a kid.Lavender + blueberry smoothieThe healing lavender in this slow down medicinal smoothie provides vitamin A, iron, calcium and a soothing effect on the central nervous system. Super fruit blueberries are almost too amazing to comment on but what the heck – these super berries boost this smoothie by providing whole body antioxidant support as well as cardiovascular, cognitive, blood sugar, eye health and anti cancer benefits. Bananas are packed full of magnesium and potassium, perfect for relaxing tired muscles. Bananas combined with the lavender are a recipe for a calmer, more relaxed and rested self. Goodness me, with banana and lavender we’ll sleep like a log.

What’s your best way to slow down and relax?Lavender + blueberry smoothieLavender + blueberry slow down smoothie

(serves 2)

1 teaspoon dried lavender
2 cups almond milk
1 cup blueberries
1 frozen banana
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Add ingredients to a blender and blitz on high speed until smooth.

Raw Buckwheat Vanilla Porridge (GF + Vegan)

Raw buckwheat + vanilla porridge for twoThe perfect breakfast.

Today is most definitely a day for raw buckwheat vanilla porridge and following your heart.

I’ve been cotemplating, pondering and realising today. Realising that no matter how much you tell yourself otherwise, you cannot get along with everyone. This may sound obvious but I got caught up for a while there, caught up in the belief that we should all get along and love thy neighbour regardless. But I don’t buy it. Today I understand the need to be a better person, to strive for harmony and most of the time I’m good with this. You know the kind of stuff I’m talking about- less judgements, helping others more, greater compassion, embracing differences and just general goodness. On the whole, I am this person, I’m pretty kind,  I care, I make a point of understanding different viewpoints, I like to help, yeah I’m doing OK here.

But then it happened, I gave in and accepted that some people are simply not deserving recipients of our precious time and energy. Perhaps I  sound like a bitch and maybe I am, but I’m ok with this because sometimes you have to have an opinion and just go with what you believe, I’m big on integrity. And I’m not talking about particular people but just generally accepting that some differences cannot be bridged in life. Those who just feel like a steep hill, possessors of harsh tongues, makers of arbitrary judgements, disregarders of other’s feelings, showers of sheer recklessness, complacent with delicate souls -it’s these who I’m talking about. When one cares less for the consequences of their actions or lifestyle choices, who are aware  but care  much less of the damage they cause to themselves and others too, including the world we share, yes I can get along but not get on with them. I know it’s such a minority but it still just is and I’ve decided to let these toxic people go, albeit lovingly, with good thoughts and no hard feelings.

There’s too much greatness out there, overwhelming acts of kindness and heartbreaking generosity, thank god for all these good people……and for delicious breakfasts too.Raw buckwheat + vanilla porridge

So I love porridge but usually stick with the oat variety, definitely one of my favourite foods ever. But I was kind of intrigued by buckwheat porridge so it was high up on my hit list of recipe to-dos!  I found the raw buckwheat very reasonably priced in a local health food shop. This recipe requires the raw groats so be sure that you don’t buy the cereal version because this is not what you want. Despite the name, there is no wheat in buckwheat so this super whole grain is a fabulous option for gluten free diets or even as a change to the grains that get so ingrained in our diets! This buckwheat breakfast is simple, wholesome and can be enjoyed on the run too. The perfect breakfast.Easy buckwheat porridge process

Raw buckwheat vanilla porridge is an uber easy process – just soak the groats overnight, rinse, combine with the remaining ingredients and blend. Like overnight oats these can be flavoured any way you prefer or accordingly to what’s in the fridge. I decided almond milk with vanilla and cinnamon to be the wisest decision – I can’t get enough of this little combo. Adding the dates to the mixture thickens it a little as well as giving a fudge like flavour, so yum and I truly believe we should add dates to everything. Always looking for an excuse for a berry fix I decided to top this creamy buckwheat with British raspberries and blueberries. Yeah I know, British blueberries eh – since when did we start producing blueberries? That’s exactly what the Waitrose package said so no complaints here! I also remembered that there were still lots of blackberries on the bush behind the flat and I couldn’t resist the thought of triple berries for breakfast!Raw buckwheat + vanilla porridge

Why this is the perfect breakfast….first up, whole grain buckwheat is great for our cardiovascular system, has a positive effect on blood sugar control and is a great source of fibre. Also, it’s zero gluten, free of dairy and soy -perfect. What’s more, the added berries, nuts and almond milk make this an antioxidant and calcium rich balanced and nutritious way to start the day. Raw buckwheat porridge is so versatile and works well with any fruit, I suspect apples and bananas would be pretty special though. This recipe is great as a simple yet perfectly nutritious breakfast or a smooth nutty dessert. It’s all your choice.Raw buckwheat + vanilla porridge

Raw buckwheat + vanilla porridge

(serves 2)

2 cups raw buckwheat, soaked in water overnight
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup pecans

to serve:
berries
extra pecans

Method:

1. Rinse the soaked buckwheat groats with clean running water + add to the blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.
2. Serve in glass bowls and garnish with berries + pecans.

 

Spicy Tomato Spelt Spaghetti (Vegan)

Spicy tomato spelt spaghetti Are you a creamy or tomatoey person? I’m definitely the latter but regardless, everybody needs a solid go to tomato pasta sauce in their life, I know I do. I’ve always loved spaghetti coated in a rich, vibrant, sweet and spicy tomato based sauce. It doesn’t get much better than that. It was one of my favourite meals as a kid, oodles of spaghetti piled high and tossed in a rich red sauce. I used to have fun eating it too, relishing in the fact the table was set with spoons and forks as opposed to the traditional knife and fork (why can’t I get excited over such things anymore?!). There’s only one thing I don’t like about this meal and that’s the noises, you know the ones – sucking, slurping, general pasta suction techniques, we’ve all done it. I can’t deal with my emotions when I’m subjected to this. Surely, you can ONLY do this when eating alone and isn’t this the reason why you never order spaghetti on a first date?Spaghetti topped with parmesan

This spicy tomato spelt spaghetti is a 15 minute meal that couldn’t be more simple. It’s too true, the simple things are often the best. This is so speedy, it’s quicker than picking up the phone, ordering take out and waiting for it’s delivery. A basic italian inspired tomato spaghetti that’s delicious as is but would work really well powered up with your favourite veg, especially chestnut mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, a handful of rocket or a sprinkle of lemon zest. It’s a truly versatile dish. I like to use spelt spaghetti for the lower gluten and higher vitamin content but any wholegrain pasta would make a worthy nutritious and filling meal.Simple spaghetti ingredients

In my book a perfect tomato sauce needs good quality tomatoes, a good glug of olive oil, generous garlic, correct seasoning, a little sweetness and some spice. I like it really spicy but then again I do have a slight addiction to all things chili so if you prefer it a little milder then use a little less spice. It’s a great idea to make a large batch of the sauce and freeze half as it’s so versatile you could use it for another pasta dish such as lasagne, mixed with butter beans, poured over veggies or as a base for stuffed veggies. Just a thought. Two bowls of spaghetti

So, are you a creamy or tomatoey pasta person?

What’s your view on spaghetti eating etiquette?Spaghetti twisted on fork ready for slurping!

Spicy tomato spelt spaghetti

(serve 2)

200 grams spelt spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili, finely chopped
1 teaspoon oregano + 1/2 teaspoon crushed chili
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt + pepper
generous handful of black olives
fresh basil leaves, torn

Method:

1. Place the spaghetti into salted boiling water + cook according to packet instructions.
2. Heat the olive oil + add the garlic, chili + oregano stirring until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar + seasonings simmering for 10-15 minutes.
3. Drain the spaghetti + set aside. Add some of the pasta water to the sauce if it needs a little thinning. Stir the torn basil leaves, black olives + cooked spaghetti through the spicy tomato sauce.
4. Serve immediately + garnish with extra olives + basil leaves.

Peanut Butter + Brown Rice Granola Bars (GF+ Vegan)

Granola bars + white chocolateIt’s finally happened. After all these years of hoping, praying and wishing only to be faced with the disappointment of not being quite there. But then just out of nowhere, boom (I just have to stop saying this word, I’m 32) and I’m there, success. I’ll never forget this day.

Peanut butter + brown rice granola bars of course. I’ve finally found what I’ve been hoping for. They just work for me, a granola bar that’s so crazy tasty, ridiculously healthy and holds together perfectly. Like I dropped it on the gravel and it didn’t even flinch, not even a chip on the the side. I really didn’t think it was possible but here’s a granola bar with spot on taste, a chewy texture and an impressive health rating. The other thing I like about these is they’re super good value too, often I find that granola bar recipes contain a lot of pricey superfood ingredients. These peanut butter + brown rice bars use simple, healthy, using widely available and very cheap ingredients. Each bar cost less than 25 pence which is a steal when compared to how much store bought varieties are.Granola bar process

The urge to get some white chocolate involved proved a little too much and why not because these are spectacularly good for you, too good really. They’re so tasty I had no choice but to have two with my coffee, it’s almost as if the decision was out of my control. No worries though, the recipe makes 14 good sized bars so with 10 remaining I can divide these with Russ for our weekday work snacks – 2 for him and 8 for me. Sorted!chopping

Here’s why you need these in your life:

utterly delicious
100 % whole grain
gluten free
high in B vitamins+ potassium
high in heart friendly monounsaturated fats
sweetened naturally with maple syrup
a good protein source
breakfast on the runStoring granola bars

As if you need any more convincing but what the hell we’ll go for some bonus points. These bars are extremely easy to put together, I’m talking 5 minutes and they require zero baking time. You can use the nut butter of your choice and add any of your personal granola bar favourites. These don’t need the white chocolate drizzle as such, but I just love the peanut butter and white chocolate combo so yes, I guess they do need it!

I do hope you’re having a fabulous day!A granola bar pile up

Peanut butter + brown rice granola bars

(makes 16)

1 1/2 cups brown rice cereal
1 1/4 cups gluten free oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup natural smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil

chocolate drizzle:

1/4 cup dairy free white chocolate
2 tablespoons coconut oil

1. Add the brown rice cereal, oats & salt to a large mixing bowl. Stir until evenly distributed.
2. Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients to a pan & simmer over a low heat until fully combined.
3. Add the cereal mix to the pan (or the wet mix to a bowl if the pan is too small) & combine with the  wet ingredients thoroughly. Transfer to a greased 9X13″ baking pan.Press down evenly so that the mixture is compact.
4. Place in the freezer for 45-60 minutes until set. Remove & slice into 12-16 bars.
5. Melt the white chocolate & coconut oil over a low heat. Spoon this over the cereal bars & place in the freezer for 15 minutes until set. Store in an airtight container.

The Ultimate Vegetarian Lasagne with Roasted Romano Pepper + Pumpkin

Roasted red pepper + pumpkin lasagneRuss and me cook together every night. Occasionally one of us will suggest we’ll cook alone to free the other up but we just kind of like cooking together. We enjoy it, it’s relaxing, plus it takes half the time and we get to chat about our day whilst chopping, stirring and getting ready to eat fabulous food. The thing is, yeah it’s a habit but a good one surely – well you gotta eat and we get to feast on delicious, fresh and nutritious meals every night. Cooking together is a lot more fun than cooking alone but we seem to have definitely assigned ourselves set roles, Russ does most of the chopping and salad bits and I crack on with the actual cooking, timings, table arranging, flavours and cleaning. Well we both share the cleaning but I’m starting to think I got the raw end of the deal being a slave to the hob! I’d challenge Russ to swap with me but his knife skills are too good and I always prefer salads made by another! We’ve both just slipped into these roles and seem to get on with them like a well oiled machine- funny how habits form over time without us really noticing. Maybe I’ll challenge him to get down and dirty with the cooking whilst I sharpen my knife skills….yeah maybe. He can keep the bathroom cleaning duties though, I don’t want to share that one or bin change day!Slice of lasagne

I adore vegetarian lasagne but I don’t buy into complicated lasagnes at all. To me, the most important aspects are the flavours and good quality pasta sheets. I’ve made a full on traditional lasagne from scratch before and it seemed to take an age, but this recipe is just perfect and takes less time, especially if you’ve pre roasted vegetables to hand. I have to say when cooking in tandem (Hi Russ!) there really isn’t any recipe that’s too much so I really have no excuses. However, this is so jam packed full of fresh and vibrant ingredients it really doesn’t need a lot of fuss and time.Roasted vegetables

I use a cheats white sauce to quicken the lasagne process further and only spread this on the top layer as opposed to traditionally distributed throughout. I find this enough but if you prefer a creamier dish then just double the creme fraiche mixture and add to as many of the layers as you like. The roasted vegetables give this lasagne a beautifully sweet flavour, transforming the plain old chopped tomatoes into a sweet, rich and extremely moreish sauce. I like to add a little chili for a spicier version, actually I add chili to almost everything so just ignore me.Lasagne - ready for assembly!

Here is a fact and an opinion: Fact first, this is much healthier than traditional meat lasagnes. The tomatoes, peppers and pumpkin make this dish extremely nutrient dense and the cheese, creme fraiche and lentils provide an excellent protein content too. Now opinion, well I believe this is tastier than any other lasagne by miles, meat or non meat. It’s the ultimate vegetarian lasagne.

Do you have quirky routines/habits around cooking?Lasagne + Russ' salad is perfection

The ultimate vegetarian lasagne

(serves 2 hungry people)

200 grams pasta sheets (I used gluten free)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 romano peppers
2 cups cubed pumpkin or squash
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon, oregano + thyme
1 white onion, chopped finely
1 can chopped tomatoes + 1 can water
1/2 cup lentils
chopped parsley

cheat’s white sauce:
1 cup creme fraiche + a little water to loosen
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 cup mozzarella, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 190ºC. Place whole peppers + squash in an square 12″ oven proof dish. Season + drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil + roast for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil, add the onion, garlic + seasonings stirring until fragrant + translucent. Add the tomatoes + water, keep on a low simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are roasted.
3. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. Peel the skins off the peppers (they should fall off) + chop roughly. Add both to the tomato sauce.
4. In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche with a little water + stir through the parmesan. It should be a pourable consistency.
5. Assemble the lasagne in the square dish starting with a base layer of sauce, followed by the lasagne sheets. Continue for 3 layers of tomato base + pasta. Pour the white sauce over the assembled lasagne + place in the oven for 30 – 45 minutes depending on pasta sheets used.
6. Remove 5 minutes before the end + add the mozzarella. Place bake in the oven until the cheese is lightly browned + bubbling. Serve immediately with a big salad + garlic baguette.

Keep refrigerated, delicious eaten cold + freezable on day of making.

10 Minute Fig, Walnut + Lemon Thyme Fusilli

The most delicious ingredientsSo I was gonna start this post by sharing those cherished italian memories forged during the year I lived and loved in Florence but then I realised I’ve never lived in Italy and this is but a dream! So naturally, I’m going to share information on smells and my love affair with garlic.

What is it about garlic that does this to me?! The aroma of garlic gently sizzling in olive oil has got to be my all time favourite smells. I joke with Russ that you could fry any inedible and gross food or non-food (don’t ask) in garlic and I’d eat it! We end up listing a load of rancid, disgusting ‘things’ whilst agreeing that garlic would more than likely make it irresistible! Sometimes I think we’re quite immature for our age.  There’s one smell I like more than just garlic and that’s garlic and white wine cooking together – oh my god, this does it for me big time. I’m quite the garlic fan which is just as well as when we lived in Korea we were served a lot of raw garlic and I got very involved.DSC_7068

This 10 minute fig, walnut + lemon thyme beauty has a good hit of garlic and is one of my favourite pasta dishes. I got out of the pasta habit for a while there and I’m wondering why this happened to me. Maybe it was pasta overload whilst at university because this was definitely my staple food. Or maybe it’s the wheat and gluten ‘cos I don’t like too much of that either. But really I think I just forgot how good italian pasta dishes can be with so few simple ingredients. It’s comfort food which can also be nourishing when combined with the right ingredients. I’m a big fan of spelt spaghetti (less gluten) and also brown rice varieties so I use these when avoiding gluten overload. This fig, walnut + lemon thyme dish is enough to get me back on pasta track though. The simplicity, the flavours and the aroma are so good;  sweet figs, earthy and  creamy walnuts mingling with white wine and garlic infused fusilli.Delicious fig, walnut, wine + lemon thyme fusilli

It’s healthy too, the walnuts and olive oil make this a pasta that’s packed full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. A good fat that helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels, lowers the risk of heart disease and helps to regulate our blood sugar and insulin levels. The figs are a great source of potassium and fibre and  help to reduce high blood pressure. But really figs are just beautiful, I think they’re one of the prettiest fruits around making this dish easy on the eye! Oh yes, another thing – if you use wholegrain gluten free pasta such as brown rice, whole wheat or spelt you’ll be getting an extremely fibre rich meal which will satiate, keep you full for longer and regulate blood sugar levels. This is a perfect lunchtime or evening meal with a little italian inspiration on the side.

So, what are your favourite cooking smells?Fusilli + wine = delicious

 

10 minute fig, walnut + lemon thyme fusilli

(serves 2)

150 grams fusilli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small glass white wine
2 figs, sliced
50 grams walnuts, toasted
generous sprinkle lemon thyme
parmesan, to serve
salt & pepper

1. Place the fusilli in salted boiling water & cook according to packet instructions.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat & add the garlic, cooking until fragrant. Stir in the figs & add the white wine, allowing to simmer until the alcohol burns off, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the thyme, walnuts & cooked pasta stirring through to fully incorporate.
4. Transfer to large serving bowls. Serve with a scattering of extra thyme & a generous sprinkle of parmesan

Nectarine + Apple Cobbler (GF)

Apple & nectarine cobblerDo you ever have random, superwoman type productive days when you get obscene amounts done? I have these, sporadically, and today was definitely one of those days. It makes me wonder where they come from, maybe the need to get a wriggle on, or something I ate, the sun shining…who knows. But today has been super productive in every way starting from wake up circuits class, delicious coconut oat breakfast with triple espresso (oh, maybe this is the reason!), the food shop, my day job and a delicious nectarine and apple cobbler which I’ve never made before.

The sun has shined all day which has made Thursday even more fabulous because whenever the sun shows up, everything and everyone cheers up and looks a little brighter. I’m lucky enough to be able to do a little of my work from home so I like to sit outside and enjoy our canal bank setting. I’m so in love with our apartment, although it’s not showy or big it’s just peaceful, calming and has a beautiful outlook. If the sun was shining a bit more then I’d have no complaints because being a complete sun head makes miserable dreary days such a drag. Today was so nice that I didn’t even want to go in and cook this delicious nectarine and apple cobbler, but in the end the temptation to try some proved too much.Apples

Traditionally, I’m pretty sure it’s peach that goes in a cobbler but I had a bowl of nectarines which were getting ripe on me so I knew my recipe had use these sweet things. Apples go pretty well with nectarines too, plus I needed something else to bulk the fruit mixture out as I like a substantial dessert. I’ve been making a lot of pies and crumbles lately so I kinda needed to do something else but it’s always a hard decision when your favourite is crumble, not that I’m fixated or anything! Eventually, I decided on a cobbler because I’d never made it before but more importantly not eaten one either. I’ve always associated cobbler with the USA, mainly because I’ve never ever heard an English person talk about the cobbler they had for pudding last night and really, it just sounds like an American dessert! Like corn bread, that screams USA to me!

Apple & nectarine cobbler

Anyway, I had a good idea of how it should be but I used an oat and almond scone base for a wheat free alternative and a nuttier and creamier flavour. Really, a cobbler is just a fruit mixture with scones on top, simple but very delicious. A word of warning: when you mix all the ingredients for the batter you have to really fight the urge to eat it raw. The smell and taste (yes, I ate a bit raw) is just too much, it’s better than cookie dough.

Apple & nectarine cobbler process

It’s the kind of dessert you want, actually need in your life because this gluten free nectarine + apple cobbler is just beautiful. The scones are light and airy with oat, almond and vanilla flavours. It’s 100% wholegrain, gluten free and each serving contains two portions of fruit with less than 300 calories a serving. This last point is impossible to believe but it’s true. I know it’s not always about the calories but sometimes it just is! For me, it’s those days when I’ve been to my Mum’s for a family lunch and I’ve eaten my own body weight in goodies. Yep, these are the days I want something a little lighter ‘cos heaven forbid I skip my dessert!

I hope you’ve had a super productive day too. I’d love to know what makes you more productive than usual?Apple & nectarine cobbler

Nectarine + apple cobbler

(serves 4)

4 nectarines, sliced
4 apples, sliced
1 teaspoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water
12 tablespoons stevia (adjust to sweetness preferences)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

scones:
1 cup oats (processed to flour)
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Stevia
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 egg
1/2 cup almond milk

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200 ºC. Add the fruit filling ingredients to a large pan + simmer for 15-20 minutes.
2. Place the dry cobbler ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl mix the remaining wet ingredients and add this to the dry mixture . Be sure to combine thoroughly + set aside for 5 minutes to thicken.
3. Transfer the fruit mixture to an oven proof baking dish + top with 4 heaping spoonfuls of the cobbler batter. Bake for 30 minutes.