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

 

 

The new nut milk

Here’s a little quickie, more of a method than an actual recipe. The recent rise of people going dairy free or cutting down on dairy consumption with a switch to plantbased milks has grown exponentially. I personally have no issue with dairy, and wouldn’t cut it out of my diet as #1 I have done it before and it was pure evil, #2 I love yogurt and cheese too much. Like way way too much!

Also what’s wrong with cows milk, why is it being picked on so much recently by the media and certain health food bloggers and famous instagrammers? Are you avoiding it because someone else said you should or because you want to eat a ‘cleaner’ diet avoiding dairy, gluten, sugar and processed foods. Well perhaps take a peek at the ingredients list on your favourite almond milk brand, those ingredients sound very natural to you? Take a look at the side of a cows milk carton and whats on there, only one ingredient. Milk. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Now I’m not shunning plantbased milks, as I always have them in my fridge, nor am I shunning cows milk as even though its not my milk of choice I would anyday rather eat a cows milk yogurt over coconut or soya and a good chunk of cheddar cheese always hits the spot. I’m trying my best recently not to forbid anything in my diet because that just leaves guilt around certain products, if I fancy cheese, have some. Of course that small chunk isn’t going to make you fat, infact it is full of calcium and protein and satisfies that need so you’re not going to go crazy over the deprivation.

I feel that varying your diet up as much as possible is the best way to go, perhaps don’t start drinking plantbased milks for the so called benefits, do it because they can actually taste pretty good. Find the right brand and you’re onto a winner. If its a nut milk, one with a higher percentage of nuts is obviously the one to go for, otherwise it will be mainly water and possibly a bit of sugar completely lacking in any nutty flavour. Obviously it depends on your price bracket, I always like Rude Health and Plenish  as they taste plain lovely, but if you’re after something not extortionate in price or what you can just pick up in your Tesco Express then opt for Alpro unsweetened and Oatly is a good oat milk option. For the cheapest of the bunch if you’re not vegan or intolerant of course go for cows milk, I always like organic and full fat. We have so many options nowadays so chopping and changing between milks leaves our palates interested and not stuck in a monotonous rut!

For those of you fancying a bit of DIY? Maybe, if you are into your nut milks, and balk at the price of the good ones (when we’re talking £4 for a carton, that’s going a bit ridiculous), you can try making your own. Much easier than you might first think. All it requires is some nuts or seeds, water, a blender and a nut milk bag (failing that a clean tea towel).

It sounds quite the hassle, but there’s not much hands on time, and its quite fun to have a go for yourself. Even if you only do it the one time it’s worth a shot. Possibly some people do make their own nut milks on the regular however most people simply don’t have time for that. In that case do buy one from the supermarket, but this stuff tastes completely different to what you are used to, and it’s easy to get hooked!! Super creamy, so much more than supermarket brands, you can sweeten as you desire, use nuts or seeds that you would never discover on a shelf (toasted pecan cinnamon milk anyone?) and the process is so simple that it will give you a chance to get creative.

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Feel free to mix up the nuts, walnuts are lovely, or for a green hue to your milk try pistachios, sesame seeds have a lovely flavour and hazelnuts too. Perhaps try toasting your nuts or seeds prior to soaking for a deeper nutty aroma, or add other flavourings such as cinnamon, cardamom, cacao powder or blended fruits.

As the nuts have been soaked, real nut milk doesn’t keep as long as store bought. My carton in the fridge of a shop bought milk has kept for weeks with no hint of a sour, off flavour, whereas you may notice after 5 or so days the milk goes slightly sour. Not so great! So drink that up quick, it won’t be an issue as you will be drinking it at every opportunity you can find.

 

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Somebody’s been peeling beetroots!

 

When it comes to quantities I usually opt for 1 cup of nuts or seeds to 3-4 cups of water, depending on how thick or thin you like it. If the nuts are quite expensive you can use more water for a thinner milk but you get much more so it lasts longer. Try pouring on your porridge for some creaminess, splashed liberally over your muesli or granola, dunk warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, or just drink it chilled and straight up from the glass. If you like a higher protein content, you can leave the nuts in and miss out the straining step, that way it will be even richer and creamier. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to give that baby a good shake before using, as there’s no stabilisers or emulsifiers it will separate.

 

Almond and sesame milk

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds

 

Method

  1. Place the almonds and sesame seeds in a bowl and cover with water and a pinch of salt, put a plate on top and leave to soak overnight or for around 8 hours
  2. After the soaking period, drain the nuts and seeds and rinse well under water. Add to a blender and pour on top 3 cups of fresh water (not the soaking water).
  3. Blend well until it forms a creamy milky coloured liquid and there are no large chunks of almonds left. If you don’t have a stand blender add the nuts, seeds and water to a large bowl and blend with a stick blender, this may take a little while longer.
  4. Pour through a nut milk bag into a large jug or bowl and squeeze until all the liquid has passed through. You will be left with a damp flour left in the bag.
  5. Put the milk into a few screw lidded jars or a clip top bottle for up to 5 days in the fridge.
  6. Try to use up the nut pulp, put a heaped spoon in your smoothies, use it in bakes such as muffin recipes or macaroons, dry it in a low oven to make into almond flour or add to hummus and there’s even recipes to make nut cheese. Go wild.

 

I hope you will give homemade nut milk a chance to see how delicious it really can be, but don’t forget about our first friend cows milk he’s a fantastic breakfast fellow too. Whichever milk you choose, splash and pour with vigour, enjoy the gentle sweet creaminess and remember if you like it, that’s all that matters!!

Which variety of milk is your go to? And have you ever made your own nut milk before, let me know your ideas and tried and tested favourites in the comments below.

Much love and slurping!

X

 

Butterbean, macadamia and rosemary hummus

I remember my first time seeing hummus, having never eaten it or it being featured in our fridge, my thoughts weren’t leaning the same way as they are now. I remember being at my friend’s house, much younger, and seeing a tub of something  besides a bag of carrots. Now dips weren’t a part of my life as they are now, that does indeed mean no guac, hummus, baba ganoush, muhammara, salsa, tahini (I know it’s scandalous) perhaps the odd sighting of a sour cream and chive or some tzatziki. So coming across hummus, when I first tried it there was no convincing me. For young tastebuds only just developing away from chips and bread and butter, the savoury, garlicky tang of hummus didn’t do it for me.

I tried again possibly in my early teens, we had just bought a new blender and I found a recipe for homemade hummus. I thought, what could possibly go wrong, had a go, and remember it tasted a bit rubbish. Bland, chalky and just a bit meh. I’m sure that happened a few times, determined as I was to make it like the one you buy in shops, as I kept being told: ‘homemade is ALWAYS better than shop bought’. In my case that wasn’t true. A couple years later again, after week on week buying shop bought hummus (I had bought into the hype), I gave it one last shot. A simple cupboard raid recipe to use up that tahini after thinking it would be nice on porridge (another thing which hadn’t yet found a place in my heart) so in it went with all other common ingredients. Chickpeas, garlic, lemon, salt (lots of that), tahini, olive oil, a pinch of cumin and water to thin it out. Easy.

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Since that day as few years back, I’ve been making it to the same recipe ever since. I’ve had friends comment having the same experience as me, ‘I had a go at making hummus and it just wasn’t that great, so I gave up and bought some’.  Completely understandable, and you’ll probably think, as I did, that buying one is so much more efficient. Guaranteed it will taste right and no fiddly washing up. However shop bought dips contain so much more salt and fat than when whizzed up in your own food processor. If hummus is a daily thing on your plate or for a snack, changing it up a bit will benefit your pocket, tastebuds and waistline.

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Just make sure to keep a form of beans and any nut or seed butter in your cupboards, then you’re just two minutes away from a satisfying lunch or dinner or a friend for the lonely carrot in the bottom of your veg drawer. Even on Christmas morning, I was providing the starters for our dinner, and had a mini panic that I hadn’t made enough. I had prepared a salmon rillettes with mini toasts and crudités, but with the addition of a vegetarian to our family, a big bowl of hummus was surely on the cards. It always goes down well with a crowd and they will be really impressed if you’ve made it yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, when I’m travelling or away from home I can’t make my own so I always buy a shop bought. The best that I can afford. Look for one made with extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil rather than sunflower oil, and fresh garlic (not the powdered version), make sure it contains tahini and opt for organic if it’s within your price margin. Even in India I managed to buy hummus, it had lumps of black olives in and on first encounter I thought it had gone off, and it wasn’t that great but we all need that fix. And when in Greece, don’t expect to find any because hummus is most definitely not Greek. Fava will be your hero item on the menu, and a very good one too.

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Every time I make a batch, it lasts easily for a week in the fridge, but is usually licked clean within a few days. I also tend to change the type of bean and added flavours each time to keep things a bit new and exciting. If you want a traditional hummus, swap the butter beans for chickpeas and omit the Rosemary adding around 1/2 heaped teaspoon of ground cumin instead.

I had just used the food processor to make some roasted macadamia nut butter, so instead of washing the bowl I left some around the sides, stuck all the hummus ingredients on top and added another dollop for good measure. It made it even creamier than usual with a nice toasty flavour from the nuts. Of course they are expensive ingredients so feel free to use tahini, light or dark to your preference.

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Butter bean, macadamia and rosemary hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 tin or carton of butterbeans
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 3 heaped tbsp macadamia nut butter (or tahini)
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Drain the butterbeans and rinse well, tip into a food processor along with all the other ingredients.
  2. Add a BIG pinch of salt
  3. Whizz up until it forms a paste and is completely smooth. Taste for seasoning then drizzle in cold water to thin the hummus out. Transfer to a bowl or Tupperware and serve.

 

May your hummus problems be for forever resolved, when you get it right it really does taste better than shop bought. Next time try mixing up the flavours, a swirl of harissa there, some turmeric and curry powder here, lemon zest and finely chopped coriander, pureed beetroot and some finely chopped dill, or some roasted carrots and cumin seeds. Hummus is such a great source of fibre from the beans, healthy fats, calcium from the tahini and antibacterial properties from the raw garlic. A real deal SUPERFOOD.

(Disclaimer, superfoods is just a selling ploy used by brands and supermarkets, hummus isn’t scientifically proven to be a superfood, it’s not going to bring you back from the dead or anything. However it is a food and it tastes pretty super so…).

 

Much love and happy dipping

X

Matcha comin’ right ‘atcha

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I have only one, but one very special magic trick.

No cutting people in half or cards up my sleeves, this magic trick is one that i’m sure no one else performs.

You guessed it. Making packets of matcha powder disappear.

WHAT?!?

Let me explain if I may. Twice now I have bought a larger packet of matcha powder that has mysteriously gone walkabouts. Those things aren’t cheap I’ll have you know, so the last thing I want is to be losing them.

A while back now I had made my favourite matcha latte, and put the packet of matcha away…now maybe i’m lying and left it on the side or possibly  put it in one of our many cupboards,but where it is now lodging is a mystery to me.

I asked my mum and dad and both of them are no wiser than I am. I did blame my dad that he threw it away thinking the packet was empty, he’s just an easy target.

But still no clue.

In an annoyed ploy I set out to buy another packet of matcha, hoping that inevitably as soon as the new matcha arrived, hurrah the old one would be living right beneath my nose.

So the new one arrived I opened it, but still no sign of Mr older matcha.

Then again after making my matcha one day, the next time I came to look for Mr new matcha, what had happened? He’d disappeared too.

In a big tantrum I blamed my mum, dad, the cat, but no one had a clue where the second had disappeared to.

Piling everything out the cupboards we looked everywhere that it could possibly be. The tea cupboard, the cereals, my cupboard (I don’t even know whats in there except chocolate), the nuts, dried fruits. EVERYWHERE.

My mum swore blind she hadn’t seen it, until I spied a silver sachet in the tea overflow cupboard. Of course we didn’t think to look in there. And of course she’d forgotten that she’d put it in there with all the other teas.

DUH

So we solved that one.

But still no sign of Mr old matcha.

Well, after all of that I recently have been on a matcha latte kick.

 

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The model ready for his closeup

 

I am a serious tea drinker. As I’ve already mentioned we have a tea cupboard and a tea overflow cupboard, in the literal sense that every time you open the door all the boxes flow out and fall on your head.

Everyday I have my green tea for a needed caffeine hit after I’ve eaten my breakfast (anyone else get headaches if they don’t have a cuppa?), if i’m lounging around then I’ll probably have a second and get a bit buzzy. Always a mint infused tea after lunch, another with my afternoon snack and one or two if i’m still feeling peckish after dinner. Phew that’s a lot of tea.

Its so cold here in the UK, if I haven’t got warmth from sunshine the very least I can have is a hot tea and a fluffy jumper.

I always seem to hit the 11-11:30 lull. Not hungry enough for a proper snack, but not full enough from breakfast to keep going another hour until lunchtime. The perfect time for a matcha latte then.

No excuses needed.

Frothy creamy dairy free milk whizzed up to make a pastel hue of green, that will brighten any misty grey day.

 

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Whisk it, whisk it real good!

 

Matcha is nothing new however. Maybe it is to us in the west, its enjoying the ride on the wellness train just like quinoa and açai. But it does have a lot of history in japan, particularly with Buddhist monks.

Let’s go way back.

I mean way way way back to 1191.

The zen Buddhist, Eisai introduced the ground tea leaves, aka matcha, to Japan. Him and his fellow Buddhist monks used to drink matcha in the afternoon to prepare them for their meditation. Matcha is said to bring clarity to the mind, maintain a level of sustained energy and helped them to remain more centred and focused.

So it worked for the Buddhist monks, what’s the benefit for those of us not spending all day meditating?

It does boast quite a few health benefits, when prepared correctly. The first, high in antioxidants. Found in most brightly coloured fruit and veg, dark chocolate and green tea, vital to fight off diseases, cancers and UV radiation, basically all environmental strains that our bodies shouldn’t be exposed to. Whilst green tea is high in antioxidants, matcha has 137 times the amount so something worth adding to your diet.

Second, it helps to put you in a state of calm. Maybe its the process of making the matcha, frothing up the tea with hot (not boiling) water then frothing the milk and pouring one into the other. But studies have found that L-theanine the amino acid which helps you RELAXXXX and also slows the release of caffeine in the body, is found in matcha powder, in fact in most tea however it is most concentrated in matcha. Time for some zen then.

We all know green tea contains caffeine, if you’ve ever drank it at night and struggled to drift asleep you’ll know well enough. Matcha contains only a third of the amount of caffeine as your regular coffee and only a little more than a cup of green tea around 24mg-39mg. Giving you alertness without the crash and burn only an hour or so later.

Dosing you up with around 3.25mg of calcium, 1.85mg of vitamin C, 274mg of protein and 20.5mg of potassium, it outweighs all the other well known ‘superfoods’ such as acai and goji berries. (But we all know the term ‘superfood’ is a load of BS, don’t we?)

Finally, I’m not going to go into all that detoxing the body rubbish, we have a liver and kidneys for that. But it’s said to help with a clearer complexion. Obviously eating a healthy diet of lots of fruit and vegetables wholegrain carbs and healthy fats will help with that, but women in japan have been using matcha as a face mask for YEARS. (As well as putting matcha in anything and everything, READ: matcha Kitkats, matcha Oreos…). Now doesn’t it seem that most Japanese women have beautiful porcelain skin, it might just be in their genes, but i’ll drink matcha to that!

 

 

Now on to the recipe.

FINALLY

So I like to use this matcha powder. It’s premium grade, you can buy cheap matcha powders usually bulked up with loads of sugar, colouring and milk powder (hello starbucks), but not overly expensive as we all have to look after those pennies. Choose one that’s right for you, there are loads and loads out there.

Make sure to seal the matcha packet every time you use it, keep it out of sunlight and in a cool and dark place. Light causes the tea to oxidise, meaning a lot of the benefits are leached out of the tea.

Also a note on the type of milk to use. You can use dairy milk, or soya milk, oat milk is my favourite for flavour and frothing abilities (particularly the brand Oatly, the even do foamable!!!), however rice milk, coconut, almond, cashew all is good here. The Rude Health milks taste amazing with the matcha as they are slightly sweet. BUT you just don’t get a good enough froth. And what’s a latte without some froth eh?

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Wait for it…waittttt for itttt…..

If you have a milk steamer, all the better, but I use one of the handheld milk frothers they’re really cheap and do the job nicely. Traditionally matcha is made in a bowl and whisked up with a bamboo whisk, I would  like to own one of these but I have no space, something from my kitchen cabinets would have to be removed to make space for it. Sad. Times. So maybe not as traditional, but if you have one go ahead and have a proper tea ceremony.

Matcha Latte

Ingredients

  • 1/2 – 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of boiled – but left to cool slightly – water

Method

  1. In your cup whisk your matcha in the hot water until frothy.
  2. Meanwhile, either in the microwave or in a pan on the hob, heat your milk until steaming but not boiling.
  3. Whisk the milk until it is really frothy, then pour into the matcha.

As simple as that.

If you like, add a little grating of nutmeg, or for a touch of sweetness if your taste buds are begging for it add some raw honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup. However if you’re using a plant based milk I don’t find it necessary.

 

So zen up your life, have a moment of calm and centring. No need to think of everything on your to do list, just sit and sip your warm cuddley matcha.

Enjoy and breeathhheeeeee

X

Anyone else, notice the amount of times I said the word matcha. OH there goes another one. Its such a good word, and FUN FACT: the word matcha comes from the two words in Japanese, cha meaning tea, and ma meaning powdered. So literally powdered tea.

Get telling all your friends I’m sure they’ll be well impressed.

(Ha good luck with that!)

 

 

 

 

Beans beans good for your heart, the more you eat the more you 💨

I’ve been going on about it a lot recently, not sure what’s come over me. I always get mini obsessions over one thing. And that thing recently is fibre.

If you’re anything like me, when you picture fibre in your mind it looks like some dry coarse brown stuff given to people with bowel issues. Yupp that will get mentioned a lot in this post too. There are certain foods in the world that look like that, ground linseeds, flaxseeds or psyllium husk and if eaten in large quantities may cause you some *issues*. However fibre is usually packaged up into perfect parcels (fruit and vegetables ring any bells?), requiring a good amount of chewing action to reap the benefits.

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Is this what you had in mind when i mentioned fibre? Doesn’t look that appetising not gonna lie.

So first of all, WHAT IS FIBRE?!?

Shout out to all the veggie lovers out there. It’s solely found in plant based foods. Keep on searching but you’ll never find it in your fillet steak or chicken drumsticks, or any egg, dairy, meat or fish produce. So there we have it, just eat more PLANTS.

There are two types of fibre found, soluble and insoluble fibre. I’m going to take you back to your GCSE Biology lessons here where I’m sure you were more preoccupied with drawing and learning certain male and lady parts rather than learning your plant cell structures. But hey ho, the knowledge might still be lurking in the recesses of your mind somewhere.

Soluble fibre

This does what it says. It dissolves in the water in your digestive system and feeds our best pals, the gut microbiota. Happy gut bacteria = happy tum. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, oats, pulses and golden linseeds would supply your buddies in your gut with all the food they need and prevent you from having an uncomfortable time on the toilet.

Insoluble fibre

This is what provides the bulk to our poop (I’m trying to make it cute here, help me!). Can’t put it any other way. This roughage is made up of all the indigestible bits like cellulose in the plan cell walls and instead of dissolving it absorbs the water, and you’ll become more regular as a result. Ever noticed sweetcorn before, so that’s full of insoluble fibre, ie we don’t digest it.

Add in plenty of whole grains to your diet (the insoluble fibre is what makes brown rice brown), dried fruits, nuts and seeds and the peelings on your fruit and veg. Those potatoes that you’ve just peeled for your mash taters, the majority of the goodness has just gone in the bin. Keep things rustic, don’t peel your fruit and veg, it just requires a good wash.

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Bits of cell wall in the plant cells make up insoluble fibre

Fibre is a carbohydrate and in a balanced diet we should be eating around 40% starchy carbohydrates throughout the day. All of our meals should be based around the good ol’carb.

CHEERS FROM THE CROWDS

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Yes you heard me right, more pasta, rice, potatoes, bread…wait wait wait, there’s a catch right?!?

Ok you got me. Make sure they’re wholegrain.

Is that really an issue though? Just as satisfying, perhaps even tastier than their white siblings and they don’t leave you slumped on the sofa resembling a pile of mash potato.

Remember that fruit and vegetables are carbohydrates too!! Make sure to add some to every meal if you can. A bowl of pasta is a wonderful thing, but it’s made supercharged by mixing it with some courgetti or adding some lemon and olive oil dressed rocket on the side or some garlicky green beans.

I’m sold.

So the government have upped our guidelines for the daily amount of fibre required to 30g.  Sounds pretty small right? Well when the average Brit is only consuming 18g per day, evidently some changes are needed. Picture one of those Quaker Oats instant porridge sachets, there you have around 27g so just under the 30g mark. That is the amount we should be aiming for. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

porridge-sachet

But as I said before everything we eat is wrapped in this perfect package by mother nature herself (beats amazon on packaging skills hands down). So that apple you had for your elevenses  (with the skin ofc), say an average sized one will contain around 4.4g of fibre. Only 13% of your daily requirements. OH DARN. That one apple also contains sugar, vitamin A and C, so keep on eating those apples they put you on the right path, we just need so much more throughout the day.

Sorry if this is sounding like mission impossible to you.

To help you out here’s some ideas to fibre up your life.

Breakfast:

  • Like porridge? Perfect. As I mentioned before oats are full of soluble fibre, but why not make them SUPER SUPER by mashing in half a banana or grating in half an apple whilst it is cooking, along with a heaped teaspoon of ground linseeds. Then top with the rest of the fruit chopped up.
  • Add some chopped nuts or nut butter to your cereal, porridge, toast, whatever you feel like. They’ll add a nice crunch, protein, healthy fats and you guessed it FIBRE.
  • Add dried fruit to your cereal or porridge, things like raisins, prunes, dates, apricots, cranberries, figs. Just make sure they don’t have any sugar added, you’re sweet enough.
  • Feel like some toast? Make sure its a wholegrain one, or spelt and rye are great alternatives.
  • If you’re still struggling to stray from the cereal box aisle, opt for the plainer cereals like Weetabix and Shredded Wheat. They contain the least amount of added sugar (if any) and can be topped so many ways to add some spice to your mornings.

 

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Fruit and fibre reinvented

 

Lunch:

  • Veggies, veggies and more veggies. I can’t stress how important it is to eat as many vegetables as possible. Make sure they make up 40% of your daily diet.
  • Fancy a bowl of pasta? Opt for the wholegrain version.
  • Noodles? Again choose wholegrain or udon or soba noodles which tend to contain some buckwheat flour.
  • Be adventurous with your grains: red, black, brown or wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, freekeh, pearl barley, spelt, buckwheat. They all have different flavours so experiment to find the grains you like.
  • Add beans or lentils to your salads to bulk them up, keep you full and add more, what’s that? Oh yes, fibre!
  • Need a hug in the form of a jacket potato and beans? The classic combination is full of fibre, a classic for a reason. Make it either a regular or sweet one, eat the skin, and top with your beans. To push it even further into super territory, serve with a green salad or some steamed greens.
  • Got a bowl of soup? Great, all those veggies means it is already full of fibre but eat it with a hunk of wholegrain bread or add a few spoons of cooked grain to the bottom of your bowl before slurping it up.
  • Want to fancify your salad? Grab some green leaves, add some roasted veg, add some raw veg either grated or chopped up, mix in some cooked grains, beans or lentils, sprinkle with dried fruit and chopped nuts and then mix well in your favourite dressing. Fibre festival in a bowl.
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Get topping your soup

 

 

Dinner:

  • Spag bol for dinner or shepherds pie? Halve the amount of minced meat you would usually use and bulk it up with a tin of beans or lentils. Adding in a portion of veg and extra fibre whilst reducing the amount of saturated fat, can you get any better than that?
  • Serve your curry with wholegrain rice or a wholegrain roti and bulk up the curry with some sweet/normal potatoes, or anything else lurking in your veg drawer.
  • Meat Free Monday, why not meat free Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. No matter what day it is make a hearty veggie dish such as a chilli, dahl, tagine, lasagne powered up with beans like cannellini or butter beans  or red lentils and puy lentils.

 

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A salad full of greens, grains and beans

 

And for those bits in between:

  • Keep it simple with a piece of fruit, bananas, apple, pears and oranges. At certain times of year go for the seasonal favourites, figs, persimmons, berries. Want it supercharged? Dip your apple slices in a tablespoon of nut butter or have a handful of nuts or seeds on the side.
  • Hummus fan? Who isn’t! Whizz up your own hummus varying the beans or simply buy a good quality shop bought one and munch with some crudites like pepper, carrots, cucumber and celery.
  • A handful of edamame beans in some tamari and chilli flakes will satisfy that salty craving as well as being chockablock of fibre.
  • A packet of popcorn, opt for the plain salted variety or try to seek out Propercorn, their Fiery Worcester and Sun-dried Tomato flavour is THE BEST. Or even better, make your own and go crazy with the flavourings.
  • Bake up some kale chips, Tear up kale and rub in oil, some salt, a splash of balsamic vinegar and spread on baking sheet. Bake in a low oven until crunchy and no moisture remains.
  • Mix up a super easy and munchable trail mix, mix any plain nuts such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews or brazils with some seeds like pumpkin and sunflower, a mixture of dried fruits such as dates, raisins, figs, cranberries, apricots, add a handful of coconut flakes perhaps some cacao nibs. If you’re feeling a little indulgent some deep dark 70%+ chocolate wouldn’t go amiss.

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After reading all of this you’re still asking WHY!?! Surely you’re not already convinced, a successful toilet trip makes us all extremely happy people… soz but it’s true.

So some scientific proof to seal the deal.

  • The main reason we all know about fibre, and I’m sure the only reason why you buy bran flakes from the supermarket (they taste like cardboard basically torture in a bowl) it prevents you getting constipated. MARVELLOUS. Or shall we say it promotes regular bowel movements, better now?
  • A diet high in fibre prevents certain cancers, particularly bowel cancer which is the most common cancer in the UK.
  • Fibre in the diet is proven to reduce obesity levels. By keeping you fuller for longer and also sending a message to your brain that you are satiated so won’t feel a strong need to snack.
  • Soluble fibre, in particular Beta-Glucans which are found in oats and barley lowers your cholesterol, therefore reducing your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

 

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If this gets you out of bed in the morning I applaud you

That’s that then. I don’t have much more to say about fibre, just that we all need to be eating more of it. By simply adding a portion of vegetables to your lunch or dinner, a piece of fruit at breakfast, a handful of nuts for a snack…. YEPP that easy.

Remember balance my friends, if we all eat a balanced plate of fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrates, protein and a small amount of fat we should be achieving these vital amounts of micro and macro nutrients that our bodies require to thrive.

Mashed potato, sofa dwelling monster no more!

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Wishing you all to be full of beans (pun intended)

X