Romesco white bean dip

For those of you holidaying abroad this summer, or considering it’s the end of August, have already spent your week away and have hoiday blues. You’ve wined and dined eating the local cuisine, immersed yourself in a new culture, had many failed attempts at the local lingo, driven on the wrong side of the road and made many memories.

That’s what holidays are really about the memories.

A certain time and place, the view, the company, it all adds up to make these memories. Ever had lunch on a beach drinking a glass of wine, to go and buy that very same bottle to take home, but when it comes to drinking, it just doesn’t taste as good. Or asked the waiter for the recipe for that sublime paella or meze dish to cook it at home, it most likely won’t taste as good.

So I bring to you a take on a famous sauce from the northern region of Spain, Catalonia. The romesco sauce is punchy from the paprika and cayenne but rich due to the almonds and Spanish olive oil. If you’ve ever experienced a true romesco sauce, no this won’t be the same, it may not be as good, it may even be better?!? But it has its feet stuck firmly in its roots.

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The original sauce uses bread as a thickener, a good white sourdough or chunky country loaf is ideal as it also imparts some flavour. Here though I’ve opted for some white beans. When making a dip I tend to gravitate towards a plantbased protein, typically in the form of lentils or beans, so whether it comes to afternoon snacking or building a big veggie bowl it will keep me sustained. White beans help to thicken the dip and provide a creaminess meaning less oil is needed plus who doesn’t like an alternative to hummus!?! I may feel the urge to bathe in it, but sometimes a change is necessary, so in comes this bright red beauty.

How much chilli, and which variety of chilli you use is comepletely up to you. I use a picante paprika by La Chinata, it is the hot smoked kind so has a good kick, if you’re using paprika just from the supermarket you may need to add a little more to get the right smoky level. Also I used half a dried ancho chilli which has sweeter fruity notes and isn’t too spicy but dried chilli flakes will substitute just finneeeeee. You won’t need to rehydrate these so just add straight to the food processor.

 

I served this in a few different ways, just as a dip with crudites, once in a big veggie bowl packed with sweet potato and courgette chips, avocado, some grains and greens. Another time in a packed lunch with olives, carrot, extra butter beans and a few other veggies thrown in the mix. Stir in some extra olive oil, vinegar if you like and a drop of water to make a killer salad dressing that will liven up any old salad. Or serve with some simply cooked fish or chicken or steak, or smeared underneath a plate of roasted meditteranean veg. I like to work on a leftover lunch policy, they are always the best ones. Throw together whatever is lingering, the crazier and more random sure will be the better!

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Enough chatting, let’s hop to it!

Romesco white bean dip

  • Servings: one big bowl full
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Ingredients

  • 1 tin of white beans (I used haricot)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree ( I had 2 tbsp of tinned cherry tomatoes that were leftover)
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp almond butter or a handful of almonds (roasting them would make it taste even better)
  • 1/2 dried ancho chilli (or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp picante smoked paprika (use 1 tsp of paprika if it’s not as strong)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 good pinches of salt
  • small handful of fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Set the oven to 190C/170C fan. Place the peppers on a tray and put in the oven for up to 45 minutes until the skin is blackened and the peppers are soft. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile put the 1/2 ancho chilli in a mug and pour enough boiling water over to cover and leave to rehydrate.
  3. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle peel away the charred skins and remove the seeds and white membranes. Then put into a food processor.
  4. Place all the other ingredients along with the ancho chilli (not the water though) in the food processor and blitz until a smooth puree is formed.
  5. Taste and check for seasoning, salt, smokiness, acidity, spiciness and adjust as you like.
  6. Scoop into a serving bowl, garnish with extra parsley or store in a Tupperware where it will keep for around 5 days.

Have you got any favourite recipes from past holidays that you make on repeat at home? Maybe it’s the peri peri chicken from Portugal, a rabbit stew from Malta (that’s one that is on my list) a further flung pav bhaji from Mumbai or fava, one of my favourite Greek dishes that I still haven’t got round to cooking. Don’t you worry I’ll be in a yellow split pea frenzy by the time I’m back in my kitchen!

Enjoy the last of your summer!

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Low-sugar acai bowl

My Instagram feed has been LOADED lately with smoothies. Smoothie bowls, açai bowls, ‘nice’ cream, basically blended up cold things, with toppings for crunch.

Don’t forget the toppings!

Out of all the breakfast foods (OK perhaps not the avo toast as that is the ULTIMATE in photogenicity) the smoothie bowl photos rather well. Thick and creamy in a vibrant green or purple – or brown if you use spinach – a good nut butter drizzle and the generous overflow streaming down the sides. It’s cool, similar to ice cream so surely is the perfect candidate for summer breakfasts when porridge most definitely isn’t the answer.

Why is it then that every time I make a smoothie, it just doesn’t float my boat. I’m not sure whether it’s that a liquid meal just doesn’t satiate my appetite? Or perhaps that I’m conscious of not adding too much fruit so instead it ends up tasting of pond, never mind resembling one? I just can’t figure it out. SOS (save ones’ smoothies).

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Now I’m sure we’ve all heard of the açai bowl. A street snack from Brazil which is a deep purple berry frozen and blended and then topped with toppings galore. Bananas, granola, berries, coconut, seeds, you name it, you can top it. Here in the UK the açai berry isn’t as abundant so we have to rely on frozen bananas for the texture and then freeze dried açai powder or little frozen sachets of the açai pulp for the taste and colour. If you’re then centering your toppings around granola, banana and berries it’s not a very balanced breakfast. Meaning spiked blood sugar levels and a grumble in your belly by 11am. Breakfast preferably wants to contain a good balance of slow and fast release carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats so we need to rethink our smoothie bowl making rituals.

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Something else that has been trending lately. Fruit-free and low-sugar smoothies. Yuppp that’s right, ones that supposedly don’t taste like salad, are filling and all add up to that much needed 5-a-day (or is it now 7, or 10? I’m not sure it keeps changing). Frozen banana is the fruit of choice when it comes to smoothies, but have you ever considered steamed and frozen cauliflower? Or courgette? Or butternut squash? Thought not. Me neither. The furthest I ever roamed into vegetable territory was spinach or kale , the odd bit of avocado – that’s technically a fruit so doesn’t count!

Steamed to make it gentler on your tummy and frozen to keep the smoothie chilled, vegetables are a wondrous addition. Paired with ground flaxseeds, a spoon of plantbased protein powder, some berries, maybe a cheeky half a date as I’m just not that hard-core, milk and any funky powders you like, you’d be none the wiser that it contains some cruciferous vegetables. A spoon of oats or soaked buckwheat blended into the mix would be ideal if you need it super filling, or a generous sprinkle (*ahem* handful) of granola or muesli…leftover cookies in my case.

Maybe this smoothie bowl is the one that will change things forever? It was good. I’m not going to lie. But I am still ever faithful to my porridge/toast/muesli/overnight-oats rotation. The girl knows what she likes. -\_(‘~’)_/-

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Maybe I haven’t landed upon the perfect granola yet? Not too sweet, plenty of crunch. The sort that you just can’t get off of your mind. Saying that, this one was mega, it hasn’t escaped my mind. Maybe I’ve found the one?!?

If you’re after some more smoothie bowl inspiration and recipes, all low sugar veggie-centric and drool worthy may I add, head to these blogs and Instagram accounts. These girls are killing it in the smoothie game.

Low-sugar açai bowl

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup steamed and frozen cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup steamed and frozen courgette (zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup berries (I used a mixture of strawberries and blackberries, any fresh or frozen would work)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp açai powder
  • 1 tbsp protein powder (I used hemp)
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseeds/linseeds
  • 1/2-1 date depending on sweetness preference

Topping ideas

  • Granola (try to use a low sugar one)
  • Muesli
  • These crumbled up cookies
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, banana, kiwi
  • Bee pollen
  • Cacao nibs
  • Chopped Nuts
  • Nut or seed butter (I used a roasted almond, cashew and hazelnut)
  • Yogurt
  • Coconut flakes
  • Puffed rice, buckwheat, quinoa or amaranth

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients for the smoothie into a high powdered blender, starting with 1/4 cup of milk.
  2. Blend until everything is blitzed smooth and you have a thick smoothie with the consistency of ice cream, adding more milk if necessary. A high powered blender will work best here, I use a nutribullet. One less powerful will struggle to blend the frozen fruit and vegetables and it will be lumpy.
  3. Spoon into a bowl (watch your tongue on that blade I know you’re licking it clean!)
  4. Choose your toppings, add as many or as few as you wish.
  5. Dive in whilst it’s still cold, and don’t forget that picture for Instagram!

Enjoyed al fresco basking in the morning sunshine listening to the birds whistle their tunes. That’s the ideal breakfast situation. Not achievable most of the time I know, but on the one day that it appears, make the most of it. Embrace it with both hands, the smoothie bowl included, and DIG IN!

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Burnt courgette veggie chilli and all the fixings

Meat Free Monday. An initiative started up to encourage eating a vegetarian meal altogether as a family just one day per week, to improve your health as well as the health of the environment. Also there’s One Part Plant, started up by Jessica Murnane, with the idea to eat one plant based meal per day. Some use it as a chance for a healthy meal full of vegetables, others to reduce the impact of meat production on the environment. By vegetarian I’m talking vegetables, grains, legumes, a bit of dairy or eggs perhaps (I do love me a bit of cheese), but definitely not Quorn fish fingers and chips. Please can a vegetarian explain to me why you would want to eat something which resembles the taste and texture of a fish finger when you choose not to eat the real thing? I just don’t get it.

Now for many, a vegetarian meal completely devoid of meat, fish and sometimes eggs and dairy too if it’s vegan, well that’s not a meal. I’m from the North of England. The home of meat and two veg, bread and dripping, Lancashire hotpot and the legendary Pie Barm (google Wigan Kebab). If it contains, meat, potatoes and pastry, it’s probably Northern and the food that we were brought up on. It’s cold up here, we need the stodge to keep the warmth in our bones.

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The struggle here has to be the Dads. Happy with steak and chips every night I’m sure, the meal that always fits the bill, but not necessarily a happy one on the purse strings. A veggie meal for Meat Free Monday which isn’t too funky, not too many greens and no weird unpronounceable components like quinoa or edamame or tzatziki, that’s what we’re after. I always opt for a veggie chilli full of different beans, lentils and veggies for that texture and a lack of meat means we need to up the flavour for some oomph! Of course whenever the pan is set down at the table for dinner my dad has to ask ‘does this contain any meat’, well no it doesn’t. Nevertheless we all really enjoy it, and as soon as he has dug in the lack of beef isn’t mentioned again.

Chilli Con Carne is one of those meals I remember fondly from my childhood. Something which is quick and easy for busy families and makes everyone happy. One made from minced beef and tomatoes (basically Spag Bol minus the herbs with added spices and chilli) and a tin of kidney beans thrown in the mix. Probably the only meal we used to eat that contained beans or legumes (the chickpea was alien to me) and the beans I then picked out and left sucked of their chilli juices on the side of the plate. Oh how things have changed. Spooned on top of white rice and a side of garlic bread it was a regular on the meal rotation.

Perhaps traditional in the UK, but not so much a traditional recipe. Hailing from Mexico the Chilli Con Carne is a far cry away from what we are used to. Chunks of beef, like cheek, brisket or shin slowly simmered in a deeply rich sauce, no minced beef here, and technically kidney beans shouldn’t be seen either. A melange of spices, paprika and different chillies all balanced to give layers of smoky-sweet flavour which is finished off with some dark chocolate (it makes all the difference). Cooked up in one pot, cowboy style, that’s how a chilli should be.

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Well and truly burnt

For those Meat Free Mondays we want a veggie chilli which isn’t just a substitute or a side, but it’s even better than the real thing. So good that the vegetarians have to fight to get their fill before the carnivores tuck in. That’s when you know it’s good. Vegetarian food is no more difficult than cooking meat it just requires extra spices and flavouring tricks to pack in that flavour. Different pulses, grains and vegetables are used to provide varying texture and interest so every mouthful is different.

I like to serve this veggie chilli over a jacket or baked sweet potato, but brown or white rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, in a wrap or just in a deep bowl with tortillas to scoop up the juices. All will suffice here. The toppings are a necessity. Whether you go basic with some guacamole or all out with sour cream, coriander, lime to squeeze, feta or grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, pickled jalapenos, chilli sauce (Cholula Hot Sauce always is a winner), spiced up salsa and some sauerkraut. This is the pot that will suit all, just make sure to fill the table so everyone can DIY.

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This recipe I found in the January edition of Good Food magazine, from Izy Hossack (of Top with Cinnamon). It was a recipe for a burnt aubergine veggie chilli, and, not like me at all, we didn’t have any aubergines in and I couldn’t be bothered to walk down to the shops in the rain to get some. So courgettes had to do. If you’re familiar with making Baba Ghanoush, the courgettes need to be charred under a grill or directly on your gas ring until blackened and starting to collapse. The skins are then peeled away to leave a silky smooth interior with some smokiness that is to be folded through the chilli. If you’d prefer, here is the original recipe using the aubergines, but at this time of year I’m sure you avid gardeners are growing courgettes out of your ears. So for a respite from courgette chutney and fritters, add this into your courgette cooking repertoire.

Below are also the recipes for the sweetcorn and tomato salsa and guacamole with which I served the chilli. Super simple and quick and only require a few extra ingredients. But it’s the extras that make this dish shine!!

Burnt courgette veggie chilli

Ingredients

  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 stick celery, finely diced
  • 30g red lentils, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin black beans
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce/tamari
  • 1 heaped tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 tin plum tomatoes
  • 20g dark chocolate (70% plus, the darker the better)
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or more/less to taste)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 heaped tsp vegetable stock powder (I use Bouillon)
  • 400ml water

Directions

  1. Turn your grill up to high and place the courgettes under for around 30 mins to 45 mins, turning occasionally until well blackened and charred all over. If you have a gas hob place the courgettes directly on the ring and char until completely blackened. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan then add the onion, carrots and celery and cook gently for around 20 minutes until softened. Stir often to make sure they don’t burn.
  3. Go back to the courgettes and peel away the burnt skin to reveal the soft inner flesh. Throw away all the burnt bits, making sure to scrape every little bit of the insides away and set aside.
  4. Once the carrots, celery and onions have softened add the red lentils and the two tins of beans along with the water in the cans. Add in the courgette flesh, soy sauce, tinned tomatoes, chipotle paste, all the herbs and spices, chocolate, vegetable stock and 400 ml of water. Stir everything together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a very low simmer.
  5. Put the lid on ajar, and leave to cook for 1 1/2 hrs, stirring very often, as it thickens it will stick to the bottom. If it starts to look a bit thick add a bit more water.
  6. After the time, take off the lid and check the consistency, if it seems a little thin leave to reduce for another 15 minutes or so longer. You want a thick sauce.
  7. Check the seasoning, adding more salt or chilli if you think necessary, then squeeze in the juice of half a lime, sprinkle with some coriander and take to the table to serve.

Sweetcorn and tomato salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • Handful of coriander leaves and stalks
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded

Directions

  1. Drain the sweetcorn and put into a bowl.
  2. Finely dice the tomatoes, slice the coriander leaves and stalks finely along with the deseeded chilli and add all to the sweetcorn.
  3. Squeeze in the juice of some lime, a big pinch of salt and pepper then taste for seasoning. Add more chilli, lime or salt if you like and serve spooned on top of the veggie chilli.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime

Directions

  1. Slice the avocados in half and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
  2. Add the juice of the lime and a large pinch of salt and mash well with a fork. Leave chunkier if you like or mash until smooth and creamy if that’s what you prefer. Taste for seasoning.

 

Let me know what you think if you cook this recipe. It doesn’t have to be on a Monday either, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, any day it will be good. And the leftovers even better. If you’re making this for a solo dinner or two people, make the full amount. Eat leftovers for dinner or lunch later in the week or freeze for a rainy day.

Snuggly warming hugs

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July Jamborees

July. A month of variable weather. Full of promise one day for that scorchio summer at home that we all hope for, to wake up the next morning to torrential showers and gusting winds that leave a chill in our bones. When it comes to what to wear that day, preparing for all weathers is a must, or in my case giving up and just wearing jeans and a t shirt with some jazzy earrings and a neck scarf. And under no circumstances forgetting that umbrella even if it’s broken and sagging, as all of mine are, it will provide some protection against that unforgiving weather of ours.

The summer provides some serious downtime for me. As the whole of Europe prepares to shutdown for August, the UK decides to take a break too and jet off to some warmer clime. Meaning not much work to go around in the modelling industry. A time I am now learning to take in my stride, not get stressed about having a free schedule and just make the most of it and doing things for ME. So far having involved decorating my room, a few lunches out, shopping trips, plenty of cooking and soon to come will be trips to other cities in the UK, gallery visits and *fingers crossed* a day at the seaside.

I hope you have the most fantastic summer if you’re in the northern hemisphere, and if you’re in the south and moving into winter, don’t worry too much as I’m sure it will still be a hell of a lot warmer than it is here in Manchester!

Here’s the things I’ve been loving this month. Enjoy!

#1 Belazu Rose Harissa

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If I had to, which I’m hoping no one holds me to this, choose ONE food that I would eat for the rest of my days, I reckon harissa would be a strong contender. Harissa is a chilli and paprika paste mixed with spices, oil and in this case rose petals, used frequently in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. I’ve tried many supermarket brands in the past, and they’ve been fine, perfectly acceptable but I’ve had my eye on this harissa from Belazu for a while and finally got my hands on some. A gloriously deep red spiced up paste, which is fragrant, sweet and smoky, compared to the supermarket versions it wins hands down. Also the company is based in the UK, YAY for that too! I’ve been swirling it through my hummus, spreading on a sandwich, dotted across eggs, mixed into salad dressings and using as a marinade for salmon. Come along harissa, I reckon you’ve surpassed peanut butter in the Thea’s Top 10 list, and you won’t be going anywhere for a long time.

 

#2 ManiLife Deep Roast Peanut Butter

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Ok I go on and on and on about peanut butter here. I’m sorry. I’m sure many of you also share the same feels? Please say yes. I’ve been happy eating the same brand of peanut butter for a good while, Meridian Crunchy Peanut Butter is found in the majority of supermarkets, made with no added sugar or palm oil just roasted peanuts and salt. It’s good. Then however I discovered Pic’s Crunchy Peanut Butter. Made in New Zealand, again just salt and high-oleic peanuts, it surpassed Meridian on the flavour scale, but money wise it’s slightly more pricey. Not much later, ManiLife Deep Roast arrived in my life. A British company grinding and producing in London and sourcing their peanuts from Argentina. They roast them for longer so it is dark, verging on the bitterness of coffee, utterly AMAZING. I can’t look at normal peanut butter anymore…I am a changed woman 😉 Visit their online shop here, as it is impossible to buy in the north of the UK but found in many shops around London and the south. Hop onto it, you will be forever grateful. I am.

 

#3 Home brewed Kombucha

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One of my favourite treats to buy whenever I go to London. If you’ve never heard of it, kombucha is a fermented tea drink which has a slight effervescence, the taste not completely dissimilar from cider. It’s made using a sweetened black or green tea and a SCOBY which feeds on the sugar to create an acidic environment and when bottled up the CO2 increases which makes it that bit fizzy. I’m a huge fan of Jarr, a company haling from Hackney, their passionfruit kombucha is particularly dreamy, not too sweet and really provides a good pick me up as well as some TLC (tummy loving care that is). With only one place I’ve discovered in Manchester which sells kombucha, I’ve taken to making my own as a little project for over the summer. One batch down, in a ginger and lime flavour I’m pretty chuffed and getting all jazzed about the flavour combos I have lined up. If you want to give kombucha brewing a go, I bought a scoby from ebay and then there’s many blogs full of all the information you need to get started. See here, here and here. Happy fermenting!

 

#4 Bundobust – Leeds and Manchester city centers

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Any of you Leeds/Manchester-ites will be well aware of this gem of a food spot. And if you’re not where have you BEEN? Originally an craft beer bar in Leeds which sold Indian street food for a snack, turned out the food was more than good so now it’s an Indian street food restaurant with a well stocked bar full of beer, lager and ale. Completely vegetarian and most dishes are vegan too, that’s not saying you shouldn’t go if you’re a meat eater. You won’t miss the meat at all. Offering all the classics such as Massala Dosa, Idli Sambhar, Chole Batura, Tarka Dahl and Vada Pav alongside their own Gujarati-inspired creations like the Biryani Bhaji Balls and the Onion Gobi Bhaji Bhajis. Do not visit without ordering the Okra Fries. And you will want a portion for yourself, those aren’t for sharing. See their website for the rest of the menu and where to find them.

 

#5 Light Before Dark Black Gingham Wide Leg Culottes – Urban Outfitters

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You know when you walk into a shop, see something and know that you NEED to own it. That happened with these culottes. At heart I’m still 8 and would happily live in my junior school red gingham summer dress. So, in flies in these black and white gingham culottes, slightly cooler, more ‘hip’ as my dad might say, whilst still living that ‘mini-me’ life. They’re loose and airy, perfect for those times when the weather is in our favour, or layered up with a jacket and some trainers to withstand the rainy days. The high elasticated waistband, well the fashion isn’t the only reason I wear them. Going out for a big meal? Stick these on and you can squeeze in that dessert instead of your jeans button popping open. Comfort and style, I’m in.

 

#6 Flamingo wallpaper

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So last week me and my mum spent a few days redecorating my room. Going though the whole procedure of painting the ceiling, woodwork, walls and finally coming to the best bit, the wallpapering. When your new wallpaper is pink and covered in flamingoes it’és particularly exciting. As glorious as it sounds. I have plans for a corner full of plants, terrariums and succulents to keep the air fresh and clean, lots of artwork by me, a handmade crocheted throw which I’m currently in the making of and some white artichoke lights as there isn’t enough of a 70’s throwback as there is. If anyone has any Pinterest boards that they would be happy to share for some bedroom/plant/artwork inspiration, I’m all eyes!!

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Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

I love the gap in between meals. I love snacks. Particularly cookies for a snack.

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When I was younger I always loved the occasional trips with my mum to a shopping centre, bags gathered in hands with the excitement of new shoes and holiday gear. (Shoes which according to my dad should be saved for my holiday, by which time they were too small as I was the never-ending-child). We always made a detour on the way out by the Millie’s Cookies stand. Anyone also from the UK will have similar fond memories. I’d have a pick of two cookies, guaranteed white chocolate chip and the other a milk chocolate and toffee, my mum’s the oatmeal and raisin, all wrapped in a paper bag to nibble on on the car journey to my Nanan’s to bridge-the-gap before dinner.

Nowadays my cookie preference nods towards a more grown up flavour. Ideally a crispy on the outside and really gooey in the middle, the under baked kind with a good butterscotch caramel tone. Either with oats for a chew and plump raisins, or studded with dark chocolate chips (85% plus), more chocolate than cookie, and some nuts for crunch. Not forgetting that sprinkle of flaky salt. You can’t forget that.

Inevitably, eating cookies everyday isn’t going to do you any wonders. Perhaps your mental health, chocolate is known for its calming effects (I’ll take that as an excuse!!), but they are very high in sugar and fat. Sadly we do need to keep those added sugars down from day to day. On the odd occasion though, there will be no holding back.

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For the every day 4pm slot, THIS recipe has been my recent nibble. Usually I’m a fan of the two-ingredient banana and oat cookie which, as I can’t be that minimalistic, morphs into an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cookie. They’re sweet, gooey and as we always have overripe bananas in the fruit bowl, waste-free too! (BONUS). I found this version, full of add-ins for texture, crunch and goo, on The First Mess blog, her photography always does wonders there’s no surprise that I was drawn in. I am always on the hunt for the perfect specimen of a snacking cookie. Maybe now I’ve found it?!?!

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It wouldn’t be a recipe of mine on this blog without the little tweak here and there, and this cookie is no different. I like my snacks to not be too sweet, wholesome and tasty yes, but sickly no. Initial ideas of subbing the mashed ripe banana for an equal amount of finely grated courgette, great. However the last courgette I had just put in the oven to roast, so it wasn’t going to happen after all. Next best option? Carrot. Naturally sweeter, why didn’t I think of that in the first place!

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Made with finely grated carrots, oats, toasted coconut, roasted chunks of almonds (or pecans), some cinnamon and turmeric and not forgetting the dark chocolate (that’s the important part). Make sure to under bake these, they still will feel really soft from the oven, but bear with me here. Leave them to cool fully on a rack and store in the fridge ready for a week, or two (if you’re lucky), of snacking success. Note they’re vegan, with only a little bit of added maple syrup, I’d reckon they’re good enough for breakfast? Well they were good enough for me!

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Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 70g (1/2 cup) raw almonds or pecans
  • 40g (1/2 cup) coconut flakes
  • 80g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground psyllium husk (if you can’t get this use ground flaxseeds or linseeds instead)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for topping
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 110g (1/2 cup) finely grated carrot
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) + 2 tsp milk, I used oat milk but water works too
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 90g (1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate (my favourite is 85%)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Chop the almonds or pecans into small chunks and put in a tin and roast in the oven for 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile chop the coconut finely and after the 8 mins add the coconut and the oats to the tin and put in the oven for 4 more minutes.
  4. Pour the almonds, oats and coconut into a bowl along with the cinnamon, turmeric, salt and psyllium husk and mix well.
  5. Put the grated carrot, milk, coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk together.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry along with the chocolate (but reserve a little and put aside) fold until combined and everything is incorporated.
  7. Line two baking sheets with baking paper, or silicone mats. With an ice cream scoop place mounds of dough on the baking sheets until you have used all the mixture.
  8. Flatten to a pattie shape with damp hands, as they won’t spread in the oven. Squish the reserved chocolate chips into the top of the cookies and sprinkle rather generously with flaky salt.
  9. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until the edges are golden and firm but the middles are still soft. I found 15 mins was perfect.
  10. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a rack until completely cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

 

But Seriously? We all know they won’t last that long.

Big hugs and sunshiney love

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June Joys

Hello my friends. Yet again it is the end of another month, we’re half way through 2017 too. Gosh it sure has sped by these past six months. Here in the UK we’ve had a tumultuous first half to the year. First getting our heads around Brexit, then yet ANOTHER general election, the Manchester attacks, the Borough attacks, the Grenfell fire, that’s just to name a few, but of course there has been some happy times. Too many of those to recall! And i’ts those moments that we have to be grateful for everyday, just to keep everything in perspective.

With the scorchio summer weather we experienced for the grand total of one week (the hottest in 40 years!!!), that meant BBQs galore, picnics, not turning the oven on because it was just too hot to cook inside and everything over ice to cool us down. Nevertheless it has been a food filled month, grilled corn slathered in butter, salad-ing everyday, British berries all permeated by the smell of smoking coals, a few of the things i have been enjoying. Birthdays too, there always seems to be loads in June so that meant the odd meal eaten out and lots of cake and birthday treats. I wasn’t complaining!

Also I’ve been back at home these most recent weeks, as usually I’m based in London. I feel like I thrive when back in greenery, fresh air and hills and my own bed helps towards a more restful sleep which is definitely beneficial. On another plus point, my own kitchen means lots of cooking and experimenting, the chance to shoot things for my blog (hiiiiii you guys) and do the thing that truly nourishes my soul. I can’t even explain how not having my food processor and condiments like miso, sauerkraut, hot sauce and all my pretty bowls, it’s a struggle. REAL LIFE STRUGGLE. Ok I do cope, it just means instead of homemade hummus we have to cope with shop bought for a while. It’s fine. Really it is.

So. June. Lots of fun things this month. Products I really think you should try and get your hands on. ASAP! Here’s to more sun (keeping all my fingers toes and limbs crossed), less rain and a joyful summer full of new experiences and memories. It’s begun so lets see where it takes us all!

Happy summer my loves!

 

#1 Califia Farms, Unsweetened Black and White Cold Brew Coffee with almond (Find it in Sainsburys)

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All my USA readers will be well aware of this brand of milk. I’ve seen post after post about it on all my favourite food blogs, only to be disappointed that it wasn’t available in the UK. A carageenan-free range of plant based milks, almond unsweetened, unsweetened vanilla, espresso and almond, black and white cold brew, cold brew with cacao, coconut, and toasted oats and almonds. All I can tell you is how mind-blowing delish they are. I’m not usually a coffee drinker, and when I do I tend to stick to a flat white with whole milk, but this cold brew is LIFE CHANGING. The coffee has a nice little kick and the almond milk is delicate and nutty. Ever tried making a coffee or tea with plant based milk before and it separates? Yep looks pretty disgusting. But there’s no separation here. None at all my friends. Plus it’s unsweetened, even better. Just what’s needed for the 11am dip. Try it. Try them them all!!!

 

#2 Coconut Collaborative Yogurt

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If you’ve read my blog in the past, you will know that I don’t restrict myself to anything. I eat dairy/gluten/wheat, I’m not paleo, vegetarian or vegan and I try not to use many unearthly powders and things that resemble frog spawn. Sometimes it’s just too expensive and you know what…they don’t taste that great. BUT, one thing I like to mix up is my yogurts. I LOVE YOGURT. Whether it be cow, goat, sheep, coconut, almond, you name it, I will have consumed it. Apart from soya, not down with that one. In the supermarkets the range of yogurts has expanded exponentially, extending way past one aisle, yogurt now lines both sides and the ends. Coconut collaborative is one of those new brands. Available in natural, mango and passion fruit, blueberry, vanilla and strawberry, with natural being my favourite. It’s fresher and not as thick and rich as other coconut yogurts. Of this one, I can manage a whole pot, perhaps that’s a bit more dangerous on your purse, but it’s so lovely do you even care!? Find it in Sainsburys, Tesco, Co-op, Morrisons, Wholefoods and Planet Organic. Basicallly. EVERYWHERE!

 

#3 Montezumas Absolute Black 100% Cocoa 

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Hi I’m Thea, and I’m addicted to chocolate. I don’t know what’s happened lately, but I just can’t get the stuff off my mind. There’s a few rules, it must be dark, like 85% plus. Actually that’s about it. I tend to stick to Co-op Truly Irresistible Fairtrade 85% as in the past I’ve only ever found one 100% chocolate that I really loved. Every other one was always too bitter, in a cocoa powder way, all in all not that great. I came across Montezumas 100% on a hungry snack search late one night at the train station. Their darkest chocolate they sold previously was only 73% which doesn’t quite cut it for me, really really good (so good i could easily eat the whole bar), but it doesn’t have that kick. This however does. Deep and dark in cocoa notes, but still creamy, minus any of the sugar to fit my after-dinner-snack-situation brief. Perfect.

Try dipping it in peanut butter, with a pinch of flaky sea salt. You will never look back.

 

#4 Cowherds Popeye Juice

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A juice company based in Salford in Manchester, Cowherds are providing juice for the northern masses. They contacted me and sent some of their juices to try (post on this coming soon!!!!) and the Popeye juice was my favourite of the lot. A mix of spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon and hemp protein, no fruit, just how I like it. I’m not a big juice drinker but when i do I enjoy a green juice, a proper one. I sipped on this after my workouts alongside some brazil nuts and some strawberries or over ice basking in the sunshine. You can follow Cowherds on Instagram @cowherds_cafe or see their website here. you can also find all their juices stocked in many independent cafes and shops across Manchester.

 

#5 Iced Tea, using Green tea pomegranate from the English Tea Shop

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Have I mentioned it’s been hot. I’m talking 30ºC PLUS. You lot in the southern hemisphere may think noting of this, as ‘it’s the norm’. However for those of us who live in the arctic, temperatures in that range become a bit unbearable. So in order to cope, hot tea was off the menu and in came homemade iced tea. When I was younger, a certain Liptons Iced Tea used to be my drink of choice. In either the peach or mango flavor, give me a bottle chilled and I would drink it all up. Nowadays I prefer my iced tea to live up to its title and actually contain some tea, in the form of green tea is preferable. So I now make it myself. Using my favourite green tea and pomegranate, brewed strong then poured over ice and topped up with water. Kept in the fridge for whenever the need to hydrate arises. You can add sweetener if you like, but it doesn’t need it, mix in chunks of orange, mint, berries which will all add a natural sweetness.

 

#6 Butterscotch Blondies, The Violet Bakery Cookbook (or visit the cafe to try them there!)

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I mentioned birthdays earlier. One of those was my Dads. I always like to bake something for birthdays and this year was no different. As a family we’re not the biggest cake fans, and my dad swears blind that he ‘doesn’t do sweets’. But give him a chocolate brownie and he’ll polish off the whole batch. I wasn’t feeling the brownies, the number of times I’ve made that recipe I know it off by heart (see Lorraine Pascales recipe, I just emit the Oreos). So I flicked through one of my favourite baking books at the moment, The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak to find her recipe for Butterscotch Blondies. Famous from the bakery of the same name, surely you can’t go wrong? Shards of almost-turned-burnt caramel, chunks of dark chocolate all set in a cookie-brownie hybrid with that generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt. In the words of my father, ‘these are the best things you’ve ever baked’, well surely that says it all? Or the fact that after we had eaten them all I was quite upset, persuaded yet? Go on, be a devil, here’s the recipe.

So that’s that again for this month. I have a few exciting posts coming up, a certain cookie that you should make. MUST make. It’s family approved and polished off within a day or two. Stay tuned!

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Coconut Overnight Muesli

I get it. We don’t always have time to prepare meals ahead, eat Instagram worthy breakfasts every morning, occasionally a proper meal doesn’t even get a look in. In reality breakfast is porridge splodged into a bowl dripping down the sides, and lunch on the go comprises of an apple and a bag of almonds. For those desperate times convenience food is called upon, whether it’s Pret, M&S, Itsu, ‘insert name of food place here’, they’re easy, offer lots of choice for all diets and appetite, however it sure can all add up.

The past few weeks I’ve been here there and everywhere. Last minute jobs and changes of plans resulted in throwing clothes in a bag (not forgetting the toothbrush) and making a dash for it. Packed lunches went out the window, dinner and mealtimes completely thrown all over the show, mouthfuls taken in between hair plaiting and foundation applying. At times like these food is fuel, not eaten mindfully and enjoyed as it should.

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When I know I’m going to have a crazy busy day, no scheduled mealtimes and the lunch option only centres around curled up sandwiches and party sized bags of Haribo, I ensure to have a really good breakfast. One that’s enjoyed slowly, peacefully as a moment to myself. I cherish those moments. Something with a good mix of slow release carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and a bit of sweetness. Overnight oats pretty much ticks all of those boxes. Plus, the added extra that it can be made in a jar ready to pick up on your way out via the fridge, and eaten on the train, in your car whilst stuck in traffic or al desko. WIN WIN.

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I’m having a bit of a moment lately with muesli. The textures and sog that you get when it’s been soaking in milk for a brief sitting and every mouthful is just that little bit more different than the last. Yet again in the summer months I do enjoy a little fling with overnight oats. Porridge’s cooler friend, the one that was just thrown effortlessly together, walks with a breeze and without a care in the world with a touch of prepped smugness. I’ll have some of that please.

Grab your favourite muesli, I lean towards Rude Health’s Super Seed muesli, favouring more grains and seeds rather than dried fruit to control the sweetness levels. Prepared in the same way as we would overnight oats, stirred up with ground linseeds, yogurt, milk, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. We all have time for that surely? Prepare a large batch for the week ahead and divide into individual jars ready for the morning dash.

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To make it super thick and creamy, yogurt is a necessity. It adds a tang along with soaking the grains so they are more easily digested. An organic full fat yogurt with probiotic cultures, such as Yeo Valley, is an accessible choice found in most supermarkets here in the UK. I love yogurt, and eat dairy so that isn’t an issue for me, however I do enjoy mixing things up a little. On the odd occasion going for a coconut yogurt such as Coyo or Coconut Collaborative, some goats yogurt or almond or cashew yogurt. We’ve had a sudden influx here of alternative dairy products, Nush and Abbot Kinney are both coconut, almond and cashew yogurt brands which have recently appeared on the shelves. I even spotted a rice milk yogurt the other day. Don’t get me started on oat yogurt, a variety I have been desperate to try for AGES, Oatly my favourite oat milk brand from Sweden are yet to bring the yogurt to the UK. I am waiting, fidgeting, not patiently at all, but waiting all the same. Yes, alternative yogurts are more expensive, but it’s enjoyable to try new products and discover what you like, even if it is only very occasionally as a payday treat.

This particular day I had an opened tub of natural Coyo (if you have ever tried the salted caramel flavour, it is so good it’s just plain wrong!). Coyo is a lusciously thick coconut yogurt, more like coconut cream, so you don’t need much to be satisfied. That’s why I manage to stretch out one pot to a few servings. This overnight muesli could be made with any yogurt as a substitute, whichever you have open or is your favourite.

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I like to top this with fresh fruit, berries particularly are wonderful, or some mashed banana or grated apple stirred through just before serving to add a nice sweetness. A spoon of nut butter and some more seeds on top (you can never have too many) for crunch and bee pollen, because why not. If making your breakfast look pretty nourishes your soul, then go on and have a field day.

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Coconut overnight muesli

This makes just the one serving but you can double, triple or multiply the quantities as many times as you need to make a jar for breakfast every weekday. Eat on the train or whenever you get a chance to breathe and enjoy, and DON’T FORGET THE SPOON!!

Ingredients

  • 45g muesli
  • 1 tsp ground linseeds (ground flax or chia seeds work too)
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 (large) tbsp coconut yogurt
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of milk (nut, oat, rice, cows, they all are good)
  • Berries to serve
  • Bee pollen
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almond butter

Method

  1. Mix the muesli, salt, cinnamon and ground linseeds in a bowl.
  2. Add the yogurt and stir until evenly combined.
  3. Starting with a 1/4 cup of milk mix well, if it is still quite thick add a splash more until the thickness of pancake batter, remembering it thickens up overnight. Place in the fridge until the next day or whenever it is served.
  4. At breakfast, give it a good stir add more milk if you like it thinner and top with berries, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and bee pollen, of course the almond butter too.
  5. If preparing for a few days ahead divide evenly into jars and add the toppings that you like where they will keep for 5-7 days, ready to be taken as and when needed.

I’m ready now for some much needed chill time. No more meals out of tupperware. Sitting at a table eating with a knife and fork (not plastic ones), perhaps a small glass of wine surrounded by my family. That’s what food should be about. And I cannot wait.

Hugs and kisses

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