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

X

 

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Hummus is my GO-TO thing. Lunch or dinner looking a bit dull? HUMMUS. Need a healthy snack full of protein and fibre? HUMMUS. Need a dish to take along to a friend’s party or gathering? HUMMUS. Ran out of the last lot of hummus? Time to make some HUMMUS. 

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I understand how easy and accessible hummus is nowadays, your local Tesco Express probably stocks at least 4 or 5 different varieties, and it is a good way of adding some healthy fats and protein into your diet. Looking at the label, the ingredients are pretty familiar but the levels of fat and salt can be pretty high, so the serving size is limited to 1/4 of a pot. Seriously, does anyone stick to that guideline? It takes some stroonggggg will power, one of which, I don’t have.

I’m totally ok with that.

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I do prefer home made though. It leaves space to mix up the beans and pulses, as we all know eating a predominantly plant based diet requires lots of variety, so rotate those legumes. Chickpea is the classic, but try Butter bean or Cannellini bean for some smoooooth dipping. I always try to buy the best tinned beans I can afford, in the supermarkets they do an organic range which is in a carton with no added salt. I would soak and cook them myself but always end up forgetting, and this girl is not waiting for beans to soak to get her hummus fix. If you’re much more organised than me, than by all means using dried beans is a thriftier (and usually tastier) option.

 

Most of my recipes and creations tend to involve using up a glut of things in my fridge. This time it happened to be coriander, which always wilts quicker than I can use it up. And the Saturday curry night never uses the entire bunch – I do love my coriander it gets sprinkled on everything – but still there will be some left. I also wanted to make a black bean dip to change things up a bit. Refried beans has to be up there in one of my favourite things to eat. Just give me a bowl of refried beans, guacamole and salsa. That’s one happy Thea, just leave me be. 

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So the general elements of hummus, chickpeas, lemon, garlic, cumin, olive oil, tahini and salt all get a little switch around. Here we have black beans (but feel free to use kidney beans if you can’t get hold of them), lime, garlic, ground cumin and coriander, chilli, pumpkin seeds, fresh coriander and salt. Rather simple, takes only a few minutes in the trusty food processor (mine is older than me, it’s vintage!) and is ready to dollop at your hearts desire. Carrot sticks at the ready!

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of black beans, drained
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 small bunch of coriander
  • 1 small handful pumpkin seeds
  • 1 green chilli, de-seeded
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • Lime
  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil/rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Put the drained black beans into a food processor along with the peeled garlic clove, pumpkin seeds and ground spices
  2. Chop the stalks of the coriander roughly and add it all into the food processor along with the zest and juice of 1/2 the lime.
  3. Chop the chilli and add along with a big pinch of salt and the oil and blitz.
  4. Leave the motor running for a minute or two, you may need to scrape down the sides until smooth, then taste. Add any extra salt, lime or chilli you feel necessary.
  5. Scrape into a serving dish or Tupperware where it will keep for 5 days.

Enjoy you lovely lot!

X

Date and Tahini Fudge Blondies 

You reckon you’ve officially gone woo woo when your idea of a sweet treat, an indulgent one at that, is a squidgy medjool date stuffed with some dark tahini and a sprinkle of cinnamon? I would believe so.

This my friends is me. I have become that lentil eating, hippie-dip person, who sprinkles turmeric in everything within reach and always has snacks in my bag for those often moments when nothing except crisps is available. You’d wish you were my friend when it comes to those desperate times!

Snacks! That is what we’re all here for.

Something high in protein, full of healthy fats, a hint of sweetness, nourishing and well and truly tasty. Come the 3/4pm afternoon slump the biscuit tin sure becomes appealing. A Digestive, Custard Cream, Chocolate Hobnob, ooh perhaps even a Fruit Shortcake (dead fly biscuit anyone?) or a Nice, always a good pairing to that brew. It’s true, but biscuits aren’t necessarily going to keep you powering on till the end of the work day or your commute home, and stopping at just one isn’t even an option.

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So, bring on the blondies.

I’m a fan of a homemade snack. Putting aside an hour at the weekends to mash, pour and mix up the ingredients, not only is it preparing you for the week ahead for those busy work days and long commutes, think of it as an act of self care. Doing something for yourself, with the knowledge that your emergency snack stash is nourishing and will prevent you prowling the kitchen come 8pm eating anything and everything you can lay your hands on.

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These blondies don’t contain the expected ingredients, a blondie is the blonde sister to the chocolate brownie. No chocolate or cocoa powder, think a brownie/cookie hybrid sometimes studded with addins like pecans, cranberries and white chocolate. Sounds pretty scrum right? Ok that is not what I have for you today, and there is one particular ingredient maybe you weren’t expecting?

The beauty that is the chickpea. The versatile legume made famous for its use in hummus, high in protein and low in fat, lending it’s qualities to create a dense and gooey blondie. I’ve been thinking recently about making a sweet hummus, a dip to eat with apple or carrots, spread on toast for breakfast or a snack. A change up from the regular peanut or almond butter, as there can be too much of a good thing (even peanut butter!). Tahini, dates and chickpeas along with some almond flour, coconut oil, and a flax egg in there too to help stick it all together. You can adjust the amount of dates depending on how sweet you would like, but there is no added sugars. That’s no maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar etc. just dates for some of that HELLA fibre action. And talk about the caramelly toffee flavour!

 

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They definitely won’t last long!

 

Tahini is, as you well know if you’ve read my blog before, one of my desert island foods. There’s something about its bitter depth that lends itself to all manner of foods and I honestly cannot get enough. However if you are averse to the stuff (seriously?how?) add any other nut butter you like. If you don’t have any dates available switch them out for other dried fruits, figs and cashew butter, apricots and almond butter or even raisins and peanut butter.

Date and tahini blondies

Makes 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed/linseeds
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 1/3 cup dairy free milk (I used almond)
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup tahini (light or dark, my favourite is dark)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp of almond flour
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (depending how much you like it)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Mix the ground flax/linseeds in a small bowl with 3 tbsp. of water. Leave to gel for 10-15 mins. This makes a ‘flax egg’.
  3. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile add the chickpeas and the dates to a food processor and blend until smooth.
  5. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan, add to the food processor along with all the other ingredients including the ‘flax egg’.
  6. Blend well, scraping down the sides if necessary, until everything is combined. Tip into the tin and spread out until level.
  7. Bake in the oven 25-30 mins until firm. Leave until cool and store in the fridge in a Tupperware for up to 1 week.

 

Beans, not just for hummus!

Let me know what you think, and if you have any other sweet ways with lovely legumes I’d love to hear!

Love and hugs

X

 

May Memories 

I’m saddened by the news recently. All these traumas and terrible events, that seem to not be a reality as they happen so far away, have been brought close to home.

I always go through life in a bubble, trying to shield myself from the news as I don’t want to accept that these horrors are true. Yet of course they are, and when it happens in your city, you can’t ignore it. I had plans to write my usual monthly musings, but waking up to the news of a terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, it’s made me think differently.

Going about our everyday lives as if nothing has happened, that’s not an option. Of course we must be aware, make others aware and send all our love to the families of the people affected. We can all take a moment of quiet to think, but we must not let it stop us from living our lives. You can’t allow things like this to prevent you from travelling and exploring this mad world, or even stepping out of your front door. We were all put on this earth to live our lives to the fullest they can possibly be.

As northerners we will stand strong and together to get through it. We have done in the past so we won’t stop now. I thought I would cease all the food pics and recipes and mindless chatter for this week. Showing you what I had for breakfast isn’t really relevant, not in times of grief. However on second thought, I will carry on. Stopping our lives in our tracks is what the people causing the hurt want. And we can’t allow that.

So, here are a few things which have made a mark on my month. The little things that make me truly grateful for the life I am living, healthy and surrounded by people I love. Please do comment, start a conversation, I’d love to hear from you. Just the little perks that make you smile and glow brighter.

Stay safe out there.

#1 Brazil nuts

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More than a bit obsessed with these. Everyday for the past few weeks I’ve tried to include 3 Brazil nuts, whether it’s part of a snack or breakfast, there they have been. Nuts are great for us, such a good source of fibre, vitamin E (think dewy skin), plant based protein and healthy fats, but Brazil nuts in particular are abundant in selenium. Selenium is a good mineral to fill your boots with, it’s an anti-inflammatory, aids with thyroid function, acts as a mood enhancer, supports your immune system to help wounds heal and you only need 3-4 to get 100% of your daily needs. Not a bad deal right?

 

#2 The Natural Deodorant Co.

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Finding a good natural deodorant. It’s harder than getting your hands on a ripe avocado after the post-work supermarket dash. And don’t even try bothering with a sweet potato past 7pm. If you’re wanting to venture into a healthier lifestyle, it’s not just the food you put into your body that you need to consider. Your skincare and makeup, along with all other toiletries are absorbed into your blood stream just as readily. One of the main issues is deodorants and antiperspirants all of which tend to contain aluminium, a heavy metal which we want to avoid as best we can. Our underarms are one of the most sensitive and absorbent parts of our bodies, so this area is one we need to look after. I’ve tried the salt sticks which you just dampen and rub on. No good. And various other natural deodorants which were also no good. Then I found The Natural Deodorant co, a London based brand which is natural and scented with essential oils. It’s not an antiperspirant, so you will still sweat but it does prevent any smells, even after a sweaty yoga sesh. Available in 3 varieties, clean, gentle and active, within that three different scents so you will find the one for you. It feels a bit odd at first to rub a cream on your pits instead of a quick spritz, but it’s a habit that’s easy to get used to. Order online from their website, at £11 a pot which will last you a good couple of months, its a product that I will keep turning back to.

 

#3 John Masters Organics, shampoo and conditioner

 

Another beauty fave. I’m on a mission to make as much of my toiletry bag as natural as possible, it’s difficult and expensive at times but I have found many lovely brands and products along the way. Visit online shops like Naturisimo and Content Beauty and you will see the array that there is to offer (and even that’s only a very small selection). On the search for a shampoo and conditioner, minus the silicone, SLS and parabens, it wasn’t an easy task. We’re so used to using shampoos that form a good lather due to the SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) and when washed away your hair feels silky soft and smooth as the silicone has coated the strands. You don’t get those feelings when switching to natural shampoos, which is an odd experience to get used to at first.

After hearing good things about John Master’s Organics hair products I got the spearmint and meadowsweet shampoo for Christmas. It’s minty and tingly, a super refreshing shampoo that wakes you up in the morning. Made of natural ingredients and plant extracts and essential oils, it’s gentle enough to use on colour treated hair and there’s different shampoos to suit your hair type. The only downside it is rather pricey, so I only buy it when I’m either severely fed up and need to treat myself or add it to my Christmas and birthday lists. At the moment I’m using the lavender rosemary shampoo and the lavender and avocado intensive conditioner, both deeply relaxing and leave my hair super shiny and smelling pretty good too. 

 

#4 Roast tamari mushrooms

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Mushrooms don’t tend to be one of the vegetables that I buy very often. I absolutely love them so I don’t quite understand my reasoning behind that….something has to change. Did you knooowwww, mushrooms are very high in vitamin D, something which we are severely lacking in here in the UK. Next time they’re on your shopping list, try leaving them on the windowsill for 1-2 hours turned upside down. This supercharges the vitamin D content in the mushrooms by the UV rays in sunshine. Safety specs put aside, mushrooms are pretty tasty things. One of my favourite ways of preparing them at the moment is slicing, tossing with rapeseed oil and tamari (or soy sauce) and roasting them in the oven on around 180C until crispy on the edges. Maybe throw in some chopped garlic and chilli flakes, even better!! Marvellous as a snack akin to jerky, tossed through a salad or used to scoop up some creamy dip.

 

#5 Reformer classes at Frame

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When you think of Pilates what tends to come to mind? Pelvic floor? Lying down on your back for 1 hour? Exercise for after you have given birth? Ok, ok. I get it. Pilates tends to have a bad rap. Along with yoga people believe that as they’re not coming out of the class drenched in sweat, it’s not exercise. Let reformer Pilates change your mind! I’ve gone a few times to reformer Pilates classes at Frame in London. There are 4 venues across the city all which provide such an array of classes. I love how at Frame, they don’t make you feel intimidated when you walk in, it’s not cliquey and you will work your socks off whilst having the best time. After your class you can pick up a post-workout smoothie or a bite to eat, or if you arrive early have a peruse around their shop or flick through a cookbook. So reformer Pilates, all the Pilates exercises that we know of aided with weights and resistance. Your legs will be quaking when you leave I can guarantee. After my class the other day, I couldn’t lift my arms above my head afterwards and the walk home was slightly juddery. Frame offer a membership card where you have to put on at least £50 and then you get a discount off every class you go to (motivation to go to the gym or what?!), or you can pay as you go for whenever you feel the need to get moving.

 

#6 LoveRaw, Cacao and Cardamom drink

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This. This milk is good. Like really really good. Brought to us by the recently relaunched (Manchester!) brand are three plant based milks. Cacao and Cardamom, Cold Brew Caffe Latte and Turmeric Chai Latte. All dairy free and utterly delicious. I’ve only tried – so far I might add – the cacao and cardamom, an almond milk drink sweetened with date syrup and spiced up with some cacao powder and cardamom, drink cold for a sweet pick-me-up, or heat up for a hot chocolate to wind down your day. Thoughts of adding a shot of espresso to the milk, for a take on a mocha, that would be mega. On ice too?? Now you’re teasing !You can grab one from Sainsbury’s and many health food shops across the country. Do add one to your trolley if you spot it, or do as I do and hunt one down.

 

I want to finish this post sending love to all who were affected by the attack in Manchester earlier this week, and share a picture of the most recent addition of street art in the Northern Quarter. The Worker Bee is the symbol of Manchester, representing the hard-working class during the industrial revolution. It can be seen everywhere throughout the city, on the bins, on the Palace Hotel clock face, in the stone work of buildings and now proudly in Stevenson Square.

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XXX

April ‘Appenings

Can you tell I’m struggling to think up a title each time for these monthly posts? I will still need another A for August and just the one was hard enough.

I’ve resorted to improper English. Say it in a Yorkshire accent and I reckon it just about works.

So yes it’s the end of April. Already! Wow that really did fly by. So what’s happened for me this month? Apart from a new haircut, bleached to blonde and dyed back to brown again, that’s about it. Yes that’s the most exciting my life really does get. Not forgetting time spent gathering up the best bits to share with all you lovely readers.

I feel like I’ve neglected the blog recently, I’ve been ferrying around London and and up and down the country on trains, so there hasn’t been much time in my kitchen for some recipe crushing. Well, there has been a few baking attempts, majority of which ended up in the bin, let’s just forget about those. But panic not. I have some things waiting in the pipeline. A new dip recipe – perhaps I should change the blog name to ‘In Homage To Hummus’ it’s becoming a recurring theme – and talking about beans, a little sweet treat for that 4pm afternoon slump. For now, here’s what’s been ‘appening this April.

 

#1 Black patent trench coat, M&S

April showers. The saying has never rang truer. The past four weeks have included weather from all the seasons, sun, warmth, clouds, rain, hail, wind and snow. YEPP you read that right. It makes getting dressed in the morning incredibly difficult. A huge winter puffer coat isn’t really necessary (it’s still not packed away for winter yet…) but a light leather jacket is just too thin, and I don’t care about functionality there is no way I’m wearing a rain coat or pac-a-mac. Ok, it’s trench coat time. I bought this coat last year from M&S, before any mumsy thoughts pop into your mind your mum would have to be pretty sassy to wear this for the school pick up. A black patent trench coat, that squeaks when you move your arms. I just love it. Having been a fan of a classic trench coat for a few years, that beige colour that goes with EVERYTHING, this little black number is here to mix things up a bit.  And no you can never have too many shoes, coats and handbags. I will sit firmly on that mantra.

 

#2 Sunflower Seed Milk

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Have you ever made your own nut milk? If not and you need a little help, see this post, if you’re not a newbie perhaps it’s only almond you’ve attempted. Cashew maybe has been blitzed or you’ve even stretched as far as hazelnut (that in a chocolate milkshake would be utter heaven). I’m a bit obsessed with seeds lately, I’m trying to reduce my consumption of nuts as sometimes it becomes a bit excessive (particular when in the form of nut butter) so I seem to be turning towards their seedy friends for a dose of protein and healthy fats. I’ve been seeing many fellow bloggers making hemp seed milk recently, I reckon it would be lush and creamy, but alas I had ran out of hemp seeds. It’d been a good while since I last had a nut milk DIY sesh as I’m not entirely sure it works out any cheaper, it is a bit of a messy faff, it’s not fortified with vitamins and minerals we’re missing from not eating dairy but ignoring all of that the taste is miles miles better. I soaked some sunflower seeds for around four hours, drained and added 4 times the amount of water, a pinch of salt and blended it all up. A quick strain led to a subtle flavoured milk, lightly sweet which of course was drank up wayyyyy too quickly. Give it a try, pumpkin seed milk will turn out a lovely pastel green and sesame seeds will have that bitter toasty flavour we love so much about tahini. It’s not an everyday thing, but once in a while some proper nut and seed milk is called for.

 

#3 Masterchef

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Masterchef is back, and it doesn’t get tougher than this. Although it seems only moments ago when it was last on telly. I love a good TV competition and the fact that this one also includes food, well it’s a no-brainer. John Torode and Greg Wallace host the UK version of the show, I’m not sure if it’s me but has Greg been coming out with some ludicrous innuendos this time around, a bit much for the BBC I would have thought, and he’s definitely no Nigella. It’s the perfect week night show that you can lie on the sofa and let your mind wander, forget about the stressors of everyday life and get stressed instead at the contestants making yet ANOTHER chocolate fondant that isn’t cooked enough and instead serve a plate of molten goo. Find it on BBC 1 or catch up on iPlayer.

 

#4 The First Mess cookbook

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I’ve been a fan of Laura Wrights’ blog, The First Mess for some time now. A vegan plant-based centric delight to your eyes and your belly, using beautiful produce and no weird meat substitute business. Her cookbook came out earlier this year and with it being published in America and Canada and not here in the UK, I had to wait WEEKS for it to arrive. Oh but the wait was worth it.  I’ve already earmarked a number of recipes, particularly the miso turmeric chickpea scramble, fluffiest multigrain pancakes, sunshine crackers and a whipped chipotle lentil dip, all of which will be made ASAP. The photography is beautiful and everything looks doable with no need for fancy machines like dehydrators and sprouters which are a common feature in most vegan books. Take a look at her blog with the same name, The First Mess and follow her on Instagram @thefirstmess.

 

#5 Asparagus

What? It’s asparagus season? Perhaps my favourite of the vegetable family that I wait around allllllll year for, then fit it into as many meals possible between the months of April and June. Breakfast, lunch and dinner it will be sneaking onto my plate. FUN FACT: ever noticed that your wee smells after eating asparagus? It seems only 40% of us, more likely in women, have this ability to smell the particular whiff, all due to having a certain gene. I’m of the more dominant 60% of the population and don’t understand what all the fuss is about, but if you can smell it or not, it is definitely not going to affect my consumption. Green asparagus is most common here, but in the Mediterranean countries white asparagus tends to be a speciality and if you’re very lucky you might even come across the purple variety. Make sure to use it before we lose it again for another year!

 

For us in the UK it is the time of many bank holidays, the very beginning and very end of the month, time to spend picnicking, playing in parks, cooking up feasts and an extra day to relax (or party hard and spend the day in bed recovering). However you wish to spend yours, enjoy it fully with all of your heart doing what truly nourishes your soul.

Until then.

X

 

March moments

It’s here again, another month has passed by and March is coming to its end. This past week it has turned from Winter to Springtime, when on Saturday the clocks here in the UK SPRANG forward one hour. Waking to bright gleaming mornings with the birds cheeping is my favourite thing about this time of year. I always like to leave my curtains slightly open to let the sunlight beam through the gap and wake me up gradually. There seems to be an aura around this season, once the dreary weight of winter has lifted we all wander round with the sun on our faces (if we’re lucky) and a rosiness to our cheeks. Walks outdoors without the numerous layers, the arrival of gloriously pink rhubarb, knobbly asparagus and those grubby Jersey Royal potatoes and daffodils and crocuses peeping out from the soil. Not to forget the baby lambs that will soon be dotting the fields, spring is the moment for new life and beginnings in nature and in our lives too. Perhaps adding a new thing into your daily routine like a morning stretch, having a good ‘spring clean’ of your wardrobe or kitchen cupboards or starting that creative project you have always had on the backburner, it is the perfect time for that. These brighter longer days leave us brimming with boundless energy as we come out of hibernation and back into the world outside our front doors.

Not that this months’ musings have been getting me outside, the majority of March has been cold and very very rainy. Cherishing these last winter moments has been my port of call, wrapped in a blanket in my pyjamas. That’s the one thing that is so great about winter, but so long for now and we shall see you in 6 months time.

 

#1 Blogilates

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I’m not a runner. How I wish I was. Neither am I the sort to go to the gym or do a HIIT workout being shouted at to go faster, faster. FASTER!

no thank you very much.

Now exercise is vital for me, but I have learnt over the past year or so that heart racing and sweat inducing activities aren’t what my body responds to well. I find my long limbs cumbersome, and the words BABY GIRAFFE spring to mind. I like to exercise to improve my muscle tone, remain flexible and most importantly keep my mind in check. The only way I find this possible is by doing activities that I enjoy and mixing it up a little to not get bored. For those of you as lazy as me, and don’t want to make yourself look half decent before getting hot and flustered again, the stay at home workout will be just for you. I like to do workout videos on YouTube and Blogilates has been my go to this month. Cassey makes exercising fun. TRULY! Each video is only around 10 or 15 minutes long so it doesn’t need to take hours out of your already busy schedules, but I can guarantee you will finish with quaking abs, breath deepened and a slight sweat on your brow. Give Blogiates a go, and trust me you will get addicted!

 

#2 A Man Called Ove

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After going through all my books to read on my kindle I was rather stuck. I tend to go to my mum for recommendations but considering I’d read them all it was up to me to find the next good read. We do have a very similar taste, my mum and I. Post-apocalyptic Earth or sci fi always tend to feature, but sometimes you just don’t want to be reading about one of the many possibilities that our lives on this planet will come to an end or about being probed by aliens. Sometimes you just need a good giggle and maybe a little cry too. that’s all that I’m asking for. I came across this book, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a New York Times bestseller which tends to mean its a good’un. Dark humour, heart-warming merged with sadness, a book about life (I’m sure the main characters many of you will find quite relatable). If you’re stuck for what to read next, I really do recommend this, and if you’ve already read it please do give me your recommendations. I’m open to anything, the only thing it has to be is GOOD!!

 

#3 Beauty and the Beast

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It has always been my favourite of the Disney films. For my 6th birthday I got the Christmas Belle outfit so of course wore it to my party, and consequently it still fitted me when I was 16 so wore it to a Halloween party, albeit it was very short. I always wanted to be Belle when I was younger, and when I think back now its not the best goal in life to want to achieve – pretty much unattainable – thank god since then I have formed some other aspirations. The classic Disney film has now been made remade into a new film for 2017 but this time it isn’t animated. It came out the other week so me and my mum had a lovely lunch out together followed by Beauty and the Beast. We did both come out of it crying and singing ‘Be Our Guest’ for the rest of the day. Full of all the same songs as the original, sometimes a bit of showy flamboyancy (that’s for the 3D) but apart from that it really is such a good film and one that I’m glad I didn’t wait for to come on the telly. If this sunny weather doesn’t persist go and watch it in the cinema, you will want to clap at the end, we did!

 

#4 Burford Brown Eggs

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Eggs. Whether they’re poached, scrambled or fried whichever way you take yours the yolk has to be golden and oozy right? RIGHT. When buying eggs I feel you have to buy the best you can afford, always free range and preferably organic. I try to buy local when I can too, but sometimes that’s just not practical and a trip to the supermarket has to suffice. I’ve recently been buying the Burford Brown Eggs, they have a speckley brown shell with promise of a deep orange yolk. The rare breed hens are fed a vegetarian diet rich in corn ensuring that deeply coloured yolk. Yes you do have to pay a little more for them but this ensures the birds have a nice life and have the option to roam, also not forgetting the flavour surely that’s the most important thing of all. You can find them in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Co-op and many health food shops across the country.

 

#5 Kefir

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One of my favourite programs was back this month on the BBC, Trust Me I’m a Doctor. A show debunking the myths and giving us the facts backed up by scientific proof. It’s ever so interesting and obviously with the rise of healthier lifestyles there is a lot of episodes featuring the latest trends and whether or not they work. Think turmeric, nitrates for improved exercise performance, and most recently probiotics. In this episode they were researching wheather probiotics (in the form of a supermarket yogurt drink), prebiotics (the foods that feed your gut bacteria like bananas, onions and artichokes-things high in inulin) or fermented foods (in this case kefir) was the most beneficial for our gut health. After a few weeks of testing they came to the conclusion that fermented foods are the things that will actually increase the number of good bacteria in our guts. So on the back of this of course I had to have a go myself.

I’ve had many attempts in the past – majority failed – of DIY fermented foods, sauerkraut, a killed sourdough starter, abandoned kombucha (to name a few). Kefir is made simply from some grains that you leave to ferment in whole organic milk for 24 hours, after this it thickens and turns slightly sour (think pouring yogurt) with a fizzy effervescence. Lovely on muesli instead of milk, as a substitute for buttermilk or yogurt in baking, blended into a smoothie or just drank straight up! Now though I do have a glut in my fridge at home, so I’m on the search for recipes to get it used up.

 

I can’t  wait until next month to share all my new discoveries and findings, but until then.

Love and sunny wishes for April and beyond

X

 

Stumped about sugar?

Sugar. White and ‘processed’, dark brown, golden syrup, maple syrup, sweets, honey, toffee, caramel, fruit, dried fruit, coconut sugar, Stevia, molasses. Whatever your mind conjures up when I mention this buzzword, we have all been paying particular attention the past year or two to this meddling carbohydrate.

The word refined-sugar has been thrown around by health bloggers, newspapers and the media, a term supposedly describing types of sugar that have gone through a form of processing and had all ‘goodness’ removed. Countless recipes stream down your Pinterest feed that are labelled refined sugar free. Millionaire shortbread bars, brownies, cakes, cookies, all our favourite sweet treats made allegedly healthier. So eating the whole batch in one go is fine, because its not made with sugar right??

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Along with clean eating, gluten free, dairy free, low carb, all these diets which are becoming the norm, refined sugar free is another which has been added to the extensively long list. We are told day after day that sugar is the devil, no longer fat as we used to believe. That it causes cancer, diabetes, obesity, the main ailments that are  putting such a strain on our NHS and healthcare services. Of course sugar is a main ingredient in things such as fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes and biscuits, but does everyone think to look on the back of packets of sauces, ready meals, condiments, flavoured nuts and crisps? Take a flick through your cupboards and I’m sure you will be surprised at how thinly sugar manages to spread itself.

First things first, sugar isn’t all too great for us, just to put it straight. It’s found naturally in most foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, its very high in energy which in turn gives us energy to move, breathe and basically live. The thing we need to watch out for is added sugars or free sugars as you may often see it written. This term defines products where sugar has been added and isn’t found there naturally. Think of syrups, fizzy drinks, the sugar in your tea or coffee and even in fruit juices. When it comes to free sugars we have the choice of whether to add them or not, unlike total sugars such as lactose in milk and ones found in fruits and vegetables. For adults it’s recommended in the UK that we consume no more than 30g of added sugar every day. That 30g is quite difficult to picture in your head, so think about it like this, 7 tsp/sugar cubes MAX, and for children this number is obviously lower.

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In 2016, Jamie Oliver started the Childhood Obesity Strategy, in a ploy to crack down on increasing obesity rates in the UK. Some of many things he was campaigning for, a sugar tax, a ban on junk food advertising pre-watershed, clearer labelling including a visual sugar content, and reduction in manufacture for excessive sugar. If you watched Jamie’s Sugar Rush you will have seen the impacts that it is having on us all across the world, especially those consuming a typically ‘western diet’. After his petition going to debate in the commons, the government failed to accept the majority of his pleas, only compromising with the sugar tax with no given amount as of yet.

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We are all more aware now of the sugar content in things. I think we’re heading in a good direction, eating more consciously and lower sugar the majority of the time and eating the odd brownie if you fancy it, HELL why not! Of course it’s not going to do you any damage. That REAL brownie is surely going to satisfy that craving more than a sweet potato one full of maple syrup or agave syrup. My main issue is the group of people calling a sin on refined sugar-white caster sugar or soft brown sugar-meanwhile pouring bottles of maple syrup on their 2 ingredient pancakes or baking cakes with coconut sugar as it contains lots of minerals so its better for us.

I’m not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but I know well enough that sugar is sugar. No matter what you want to call it, our body sees all types of sugar in the same way. Whether it’s raw honey, agave syrup or caster sugar, it gives us energy, any extra is stored as fat and doesn’t give us any health benefits. It is true that maple syrup contains potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. It’s also true that coconut sugar contains electrolytes and vitamin C along with loads of other minerals, and yes raw honey is antibacterial (perfect if you have a sore throat) however you would have to eat a ton of any of these to reap any benefits. The amount of sugar consumed would obviously then outweigh the ‘good for you’ label.

Another group of people are the sugar free crusaders, shoving all types of sugar containing foods aside, including fresh fruit. That means no syrups, no apples, bananas, possibly the odd portion of berries because they’re ‘lower in sugar’, no dried fruit, juice only if its green made completely from vegetables. You see, I went through this phase, thinking I was doing the right thing. In the sugar free phase, I found I was opting for lots of nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt, avocados, things quite high in fat to fill in that sugar free hole. It wasn’t a great time, and seriously what is wrong with fruit?!? NOTHING, EXACTLY. Fruit contains fibre and lots of it, and if you’ve read my blog before you’ll know all too well that we need a lot of roughage in our diets. Dried fruit too contains lots of fibre, prunes have a reputation for a reason, so sprinkle them on your breakfasts and include them in your diets.

Happily now, I’ve managed to bring myself to a middle ground, keeping my overall added sugar levels to a minimum, but not putting a big red cross over it for the rest of eternity. There is nothing wrong with a little of the sweet stuff. No matter the source of origin your body will recognise it as glucose or fructose-just organic molecules-they aren’t separated into groups whether they came from a medjool date or a sugar cube. Remember those 7 tsp of added sugar to keep an eye on daily, and if you’re a lover of a sweet cuppa perhaps its a good time to start reigning it in. Take it slowly, stretched out over a few weeks and your taste buds will soon adjust.

Changing the odd daily habit will make a huge benefit to your diet in the long run:

  • When baking reduce the quantity of sugar by a third in recipes. It’s the maximum amount of sugar to remove without it affecting the structure and texture of the bake, but the flavour is still just as good.
  • Buy natural yogurt instead of sweetened and add your toppings and mix-ins to your own taste.
  • Instead of having jam or marmalade with butter on toast every morning for breakfast, try a spread of peanut, almond or even cashew butter with some sliced banana. The combination of high protein nut butter with the sugar from the fruit and carbohydrates from the bread will keep you going until lunchtime.
  • If you’re a big fan of fizzy and soft drinks, and water just is tasteless and boring, try infusing jugs of water with fresh fruits, citrus, herbs or vegetables. Things like mint, lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, berries, melon, as good as it sounds!
  • That chocolate bar is the only thing which gets you past 4pm? Banning it is not necessary, if you can learn to love dark chocolate. Preferably 70% or above, the higher the better, as it is lower in sugar and due to the deep intensity a few squares is usually enough.
  • If dairy free milks are your jam, check on the ingredients list. On many of them, sugar will be the second or third on the list. Opt for the unsweetened varieties, or ones made with rice for some natural sweetness.

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Let’s put a stop to this term refined sugar free. It’s defunct. Its all the same stuff. Sprinkling coconut sugar on your Rice Krispies sure ain’t no better than sprinkling white sugar on. So save those extra £££s (that stuff is expensive) and stick to a bowl of porridge!

Thanks for reading my little rant, if you have anything else to add or want to join in the conversation please do comment below.

Until next time, love and sweet blessings

X