delicious

Healthy Dark Chocolate + Salted Peanut Butter Cups (GF + Vegan)

Chocolate + PB cup stackHave your peanut butter cup and eat it, in fact eat two! No guilt required, ever.

I loved Reese’s peanut butter cups when I was a kiddo, definitely one of my favourite chocolate treats growing up. Probably because they are a little bit delicious and I’ve had a love affair with peanut butter my whole life but more so, they weren’t as widely available as they are now. I remember my uncle bringing a suitcase load when he visited from the states, well these amongst many other US candy bars. Pretty exciting times for an 11 year old. The funny thing is now that these are pretty standard in the UK, i’m not fussed about them at all! Just goes to show, when you can’t have something it makes you want it that much more! However, I reckon I’d be pretty bothered by some unprocessed and plant powered PB dark chocolate cup cakes like these bad boys. Chocolate PB Cup

Well it’s the done thing to develop a taste for darker chocolate as you grow older and I have definitely done this! These dark chocolate + PB cup cakes are made with raw cocoa powder, coconut oil and natural sweetener. Unadulterated dark chocolate is a pure superfood and NOT terrible for you, at all…..prayers answered. The fact that we add so much rubbish to the amazing cocoa is a darn shame because this IS bad for us but real chocolate is in no way sinful, but more a healthy indulgent treat. Chocolate seems to come arm in arm with guilt but not for me, thank goodness.

Naturally, these healthy dark chocolate salted PB cups have ‘real’ peanut butter inside, you know – the 100% peanut stuff.  I had to add s a little salt in the PB mix as I’m too in love with the sweet and salty combo. A little nutritional yeast gives the cups a more nutty Reese’s like taste and made the PB mix a little drier, perfect for implanting the dark chocolate. Very simple process!

These truly are a superfood of sorts – cocoa and coconut oil with a slab of peanut butter in the middle. Come on, these are good for you so ditch the guilt and get stuck in. Super quick to make and a pleasure to eat, heavenly really.

What was your favourite childhood chocolate bar?Chocolate PB Cups

Healthy dark chocolate + salted peanut butter cups

1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sweetener
1/3 cup raw cocoa powder

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast

Method:

1. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan over a low heat. Once melted stir through the remaining ingredients until a smooth in consistency.
2. Spoon a tablespoon of the chocolate into 8-10 silicone moulds and freeze for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile combine the peanut butter filling ingredients and set aside.
4. Remove the chocolate cups from the freezer. With a teaspoon of the peanut butter mix form a small flat disc and place on top of the set chocolate. Spoon over remaining dark chocolate and freeze until set.
5. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Keep in the freezer for a much longer shelf life.

Plant Powered Butter Bean + Harissa Burgers with Honey Lemon Onions (Vegan)

Harissa burgerRuss and I had a fabulous time in Alaska and Canada but now I have serious case of post holiday come down fueled by my worst jet lag of all time, it’s cruel! The last two weeks were pretty special though, definitely this year’s highlight as I adore travelling by RV road trip style. We managed to cook some amazing food on the move too, stopping off at local stores for a fridge top up and a mosey. I fell in love in Canada, with Whole Foods. I have to say I really have developed quite the love affair with Whole Foods supermarket. Why oh why is this not a permanent fixture in my life, come on the UK – get with the programme. Whole Foods is almost reason enough to move to Canada! Seriously, I was so impressed by the layout, the actual food, the choice, the cosmetics, the take out counter, come to think of it I was impressed by Canada in general. But shopping in that supermarket is pure pleasure, I need Whole Foods here!

Moving on, travelling by camper van really is pretty special and gave us total freedom and flexibility to explore and make stops at our leisure. The kitchen was amazingly user friendly and well equipped so there really was no excuse not to make some great food. It was so nice to stop off somewhere different everyday, make a fabulous meal and soak up the scenery.  The only thing is the van did have the faint aroma of cumin and curry powder when we delivered it back to Vancouver. Oops, that’ll be those black beans and the delicious lentil curry!Harissa burger al fresco :-)

I made this butter bean and harissa burger before we went away, when it was a little warmer and we were eating outside. What is that about- I’m away for two weeks to return to close on winter weather? No matter, I’m layering up and will continue eating outside until it’s near freezing! Bring on the chili sauce and harissa paste for a bit of warmth. The harissa (formed of red peppers) in this burger has a some good spice and adds a very authentic North African flavour and makes a great colourful looking pattie too. The lemony onions are a delicious and sweet addition to the punchy and spicy flavours in the butter beans, I just have to, actually need onions with my burger. Any bean would work really, I just happened to have some of these handy the day of my burger craving.10 minute recipe!

You just gotta love a good old juicy bean burger. They’re just so satisfying and beans are fabulous for carrying robust flavours and are miles tastier than meat varieties. Making bean burgers is sooo easy too, they take no time at all and it’s really pretty satisfying to create your own burger from scratch, in a flavour to suit your tastes. I really do think you can pretty much form a workable burger entirely from guess work and have it in the frying pan in 10 minutes flat. You can adjust quantities as you combine the ingredients to create a workable consistency and more importantly have full control of what is going into your burger. Let’s face it, you cant say that for any shop bought varieties out there. This better, I mean ‘butter’ bean and harissa burger is entirely plant powered as it contains chia egg for binding the mixture but a regular egg would work also.Easy, spicy, plant powered and delicious. Nice.

Today’s the day for making a super plant burger. What’s your next veggie burger going to be?Plant power harissa burger

Butter Bean + Harissa Burgers with Honey Lemon Onions

(makes 2 large burgers or 4 small patties)

1 can (240 gram drained) butter beans
2 teaspoons chia seed just covered in water or 1 egg if not vegan
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt + pepper
handful basil leaves
3 teaspoons harissa paste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 burger buns (I used Waitrose gluten free quinoa rolls)

for the onions:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
juice of half lemon
1 tablespoon honey

Method:

1. Drain the butter beans + transfer to a large bowl. Mash the beans with a fork + add the remaining ingredients continually pressing down with the fork until you have a pliable burger ball. If the mixture is too sticky add some oats + if too dry add a little milk.
2. Divide the mixture into two + form into 2 burger shapes.
3. Preheat a medium grill. Heat the olive oil in a large pan + fry the burgers on 1 side until browned. Flip + finish cooking under the grill for an even brown finish.
4. Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a small pan + add the onion, lemon + honey. Cook until softened.
5. Slice the buns, add the burgers, top with honey lemon onions + salad.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Grain Free Coconut, Apple + Cinnamon Muffins – GF + Paleo

DSC_6649Panic over! I thought I’d run out of coconut flour but  I managed to scoop just enough out (just) to make these amazing muffins. Yes, they really are amazing because they’re grain free and low sugar but taste delicious! Of course I was too happy to make a muffin with all three of my favourite ingredients – obviously coconut flour was involved but so were my over lovers, cinnamon and apple. I just love these two together, what legends.A lot of eggs!

That’s exactly what I thought too: such a lot of eggs! The thing is coconut flour isn’t like those other grains, it sucks up any fluid put it’s way and these eggs help to bind the mixture which creates a moist yet low carb muffin. The apple and cinnamon just transport these to another level for me and the honey adds just the right sweetness. I’ve been eating them all week and they are goooood, just sweet enough, deliciously spiced with cinnamon, nicely light but still moist with apple and raisins.A lot of muffins!

What’s more is they’re wholesome, natural with endless selling points: grain free, low carb, high in medium chain fatty acids (they’re good fats and the ones the body doesn’t readily store but would rather use as energy), blood sugar regulating, fibre rich and a protein kick to boot. Are you’re sold yet? These didn’t last long because they’re the perfect snack and tick off all of the criteria from my snack wish list: easy to transport, delicious, healthy, low carb/high fat, contains at least one form of coconut, cinnamon friendly and a provider steady energy. Job done.A ray of sunshine!

These light and tasty treats are perfect with an afternoon cup of tea. They’re healthy enough to go with breakfast too, really they’re just screaming out ‘healthy snack’ for any time of the day!

What’s your ideal afternoon snack?Deliciously moist coconut muffin

Grain free coconut, apple + cinnamon muffins

(makes 10-12)

5 eggs
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 apple, grated
1/4 cup nut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
handful raisins
1 tablespoon honey

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. In a mixing bowl, whisk (or blend) all the ingredients (apart from raisins) thoroughly ensuring a smooth batter.
2. Fold through the raisins & allow to stand for 5-10 minutes. Line a muffin tray with paper cases & spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into each case.
3. Bake for 15 minutes until the muffins are brown & not too soft to touch.
4. Leave to cool before removing & storing.

Sun Dried Aubergine Bake + Italian Kale Salad – GF

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself” ~Rita Mae Brown

I’m not having a bad day or getting deep on you, I just love this quote, well quotes generally. It’s one of many I’ve been reading whilst I should be working. I do this a lot! But I need  inspiration every now and then and this is just a reminder that it’s OK to make choices slightly outside of the box or against the grain. It’s all about keeping strength in the face of social conditioning because let’s face it at some point we’re all subject to societal expectations. Not that I’m making any radical choices right now (although that depends on your idea of radical!) but occasionally I do feel the pressure to do things a certain way and I need to reality check when this happens. I don’t want to be in a box anyway! I usually just search quotes on a certain subject and lose myself in a sea of inspiration. I guess I just love random, out of the blue musings, such a great way to distract my mind from a mundane task or worry that I’m headed down wrong choice lane, wherever that may be. At least making an aubergine bake is definitely not down that lane!Aubergine bake italian style

I don’t often cook Italian food  but when I do I wonder why I don’t make the effort more! This really is gorgeous, especially with this mediterranean inspired kale salad. Lately, I’m just loving this massage your food malarkey, it gives the kale a much softer taste and texture as a result of the oil and lemon infusing their magic. I think I’ll be manipulating my kale a lot more! Of course any salad would work well with this, I’m just looking for more excuses to get more kale in to my meals and as I should be.Italian kale salad

Kale is a complete powerhouse of nutrients and has got to be one of the healthiest veggies on the block. Check this out: 1 cup of this humble green veggie provides 1327% of our daily vitamin K needs, now that’s powerful stuff! Let’s just take this fact as an indicator of it’s superiority in the healthy foods arena as it also contains impressive levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, tryptophan, copper, iron, calcium and fibre. Of course there’s more, it’s jam packed full of anti-oxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory nutrients too, wow! Apologies for the science lesson but I’m just writing a quick note to myself: eat more kale! Slice, griddle, assemble & bake!

So the bake, well I call it bake but I’m sure there’s a pretty Italian name for this. Anyhow, this recipe is really simple (just slice, griddle, assemble and bake!), unbelievably tasty and full of vitamins and phytonutrients. Apparently, aubergines contain nasunin, an important free radical scavenger that helps protect brain cell membranes, I know – scientific stuff and I’m not one to turn down a brain boost! This is a great alternative to lasagne, especially if you’re looking for a lighter option as it’s very low in carbs. However, I cannot eat this without bread, it’s just one of my  rules.

Delicious aubergine bake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to quotes, what’s your quote of the day?

Sun dried aubergine bake

(serves 2)

2 aubergines, sliced lengthways 1/2 cm thickness
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2 teaspoon red chili
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
salt & pepper
1 can tomatoes & half can water

generous sprinkle parmesan (vegetarian), grated

Italian kale salad

2 handfuls fresh kale, stalks removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 fresh tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced finely
handful olives, chopped

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil, charring on both sides in a griddle pan over a low heat. This will need to be done in batches.
2. Meanwhile lightly fry the onion & garlic in a pan over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except cheese) and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
3. Spoon a little mixture into an oven proof dish. Arrange one layer of the aubergine & repeat with a thin layer of sauce. Repeat until all slices have been used. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven 5 minutes before the end to add the cheese.

Note: It’s important to griddle the aubergine prior to baking to soften them, plus a griddle effect looks nice too. I’ve never assembled this without pre-cooking them but I guess this would be fine as long as the total bake time is extended.

Salad:

1. Place the kale & chopped onion in a bowl or on a chopping board. Combine the oil, lemon & salt in a small bowl. Massage the dressing into the leaves & onion mixture for 3 minutes.
2. Place on serving plate and dress with remaining ingredients.

Goodness Green Spinach, Kiwi + Spirulina Smoothie

Putting the green into a green smoothie!I cannot tell you how happy I am to be drinking green smoothies. Why oh why has it taken so long for me to start this habit? I am loving my Vitamix too, who knew such a simple thing could do so many amazing things. Anyway, this is the first (of many!) green smoothies I’ll be making in this little darling. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen the Thomas Crown Affair remake (the one with Pierce Brosnan), I think I was about 18 when I watched it. Anyway, there’s a scene with Renee Russo drinking one of these green smoothies and I remember wondering what the hell it was! Randomness, I know but I felt the urge to share that. It also goes to show how the US are space ages ahead when it comes to certain super foods and health crazes. Green juicing has become pretty mainstream now but I have to say the office were still a little taken back by my large glass jar crammed full of green stuff! It’s literally everywhere though, I watched ‘Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead’ the other night and was amazed by how juicing can actually transform lives. Of course these people were extreme cases and personally I couldn’t juice for extended periods of time but it really opened my eyes to the health benefits of a time limited juice diet.Smoothie making

This particular smoothie contains spirulina which of course is entirely optional but gee whizz it gives a superb health boost and really puts the GREEN into a green smoothie. This amazing post on Mind Body Green is all the evidence I need to put a teaspoon into my greens. I buy this green algae from Holland & Barrett but there are good bargains to be had on Ebay too.DSC_6594

I’m the first to admit it isn’t exactly pretty but the taste is utterly delicious! The kiwi, banana and almond milk balance out the spinach and spirulina flavours perfectly, resulting in a silky, smooth, supercharged health tonic that has you feeling on top of the world! Of course, if the spirulina makes this green smoothie just a little too green for your taste, just leave it out.Spirulina smoothie

It’s near impossible to list the vitamin and mineral boost this drink provides but let’s just say there’s hefty amounts of vitamin A, B1, B2, C, E, K, magnesium, potassium, calcium and tryptophan. It’s high in fibre and protein and the perfect health tonic for a pick me up late afternoon or as part of a power breakfast.Smoothie all gone!

Spinach, kiwi + spirulina smoothie

(serves 1)

2 handfuls fresh spinach
1 kiwi, skin removed
1/2 frozen banana
1 teaspoon spirulina (optional)
1 cup almond milk

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz on high for 45 seconds or until smooth. Enjoy the goodness.

Easy No Bake Granola Bars

Easy no bake granola barsMy Vitamix arrived yesterday morning and at first I was scared of it so I left it in the box, all day. Today I thought I should get her out, so I reluctantly did and I’m glad now because I was pleasantly surprised by her sleek, fuss free, two switch appearance. It was the simplicity and lack of dials that did it for me, I have no desire to play around with numerous gadgets and add ons so this is just the ticket. I’m clutter phobic, especially when it comes to pointless gadgets, so this is me, very me. I have an aversion to large, bulky, complicated ‘things’ and some of the models I was looking at were frankly quite scary and intimidating. It’s OK though cos the Vitamix and I are getting along just fine. So anyway, not daunted by these two switches I really wanted to pulse something to oblivion to see what this baby could do! Dates seemed like a good place to start so I blitzed a whole bag of them into a big gooey ball! Wow, the thing is mighty powerful but I didn’t actually think about what I was going to do to with my dates post Vitamix treatment! After staring at them for  a good five minutes wondering what to make I decided on granola bars.Granola bars ready for the cut!

Never having made a proper granola bar before this seemed like the most suitable destination for my pulsed dates. I’ve eaten plenty but have never been bowled over by a particular brand and the majority have a disappointingly high sugar content. Many boast of ‘all natural ingredients’ on the sleek packaging fooling us into thinking they’re healthy but sugar is natural, right! Another downside is the price, why are they such a rip off? Never mind, my first world problem is now solved with these beauties. Easy & good value granola bars

These worked out fabulously for my first shot at cereal bars. I focused on creating a wet ingredient consistency that would bind well with the dry bits and the whole mixture came together nicely.  They do hold together well but I still wouldn’t want one jiggling around in my handbag, not unless I fancied granola instead! I’m not talking break a tooth sturdy but rather a chewy robustness that will take a few knocks here and there. Anyhow, these are better than any health store bar I’ve had, by miles and they’re just the start of my mission to produce a robust, tooth friendly and delicious cereal bar.  I’m very happy with this bar for now though.Easy no bake granola process

Right, a bit about the ingredients. I used almonds and sunflower seeds purely because they’re a favourite but I suppose any nuts / seeds can be supplemented here. I like to toast the oats and nuts because it really brings out the flavour, plus it smells heavenly. The peanut butter can be replaced by any nut butter and the honey for agave or maple syrup. Chocolate, dried fruit and other cereal would also make good additions. They’re pretty adaptable and can be changed to suit your store cupboard, as long as the wet and dry ratios are kept similar to the original recipe. I bet you even have the ingredients to make some now?

So, what’s your secret to a granola bar that can handle a ride in my handbag? Is there a secret ingredient?Yummy granola bars

Easy no bake granola bars

1 cup pitted dates
1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
pinch of salt
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup clear honey

Method:

1. Pulse the dates until a doughy ball forms. Remove & place in a large mixing bowl.
2. Toast the oats, almonds and seeds over a low heat for 10 minutes. Alternatively place in a medium heat oven for 10 minutes.
3. In a pan over a low heat, combine the peanut butter, honey, salt & date mixture until well blended. Add to the oat mixture and combine fully.
4. Line a 8″X15″ baking pan with plastic wrap or grease proof paper. Press mixture into pan evenly and compact.
5. Freeze for 30 minutes. Slice in to 10 bars. Store in an airtight container.

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