Monthly Archives: May 2014

My Garden Veg Patch

One thing that never fails to make me feel better is spending time in the garden when the sun is out. I’ve dabbled with growing veggies in the past but this year I have been more organised and have started to see results. Below you can see my first ever lettuce! It doesn’t look quite as tidy as the ones you buy from the shop but it tasted great and I felt better just knowing that it hadn’t been sitting around on a shelf for a week.

Cos Lettuce

Spring Onions

I am also growing spring onions. I used a couple this size as I had none in and was making vegan potato salad and they had a lovely subtle onion taste. I am saving the rest to enjoy fully grown but I am please they are finally thickening out as they looked like chives for a very long time! These have been very easy to grow, beginning life in my window sill and now living out in my £29.99 flimsy “green house”.

Rainbow Chard

This rainbow chard is delicious too. I have gently wilted some as a side for dinner and have also juiced some. It has grown quite a lot since I took this photo due to near constant rain but the rain has stopped me going out to take more pictures. When it gets bigger I will make chard wraps. I just keep taking leaves to thin it out and give the others chance to grow bigger. This too has been super easy to grow.

Green Beans

My low FODMAP friend, he green bean. My mum grows these every year and gave me some seeds she saved from last years crop. I grew French beans last year which were delicious and easy to look after so I’m trying both French and runner beans this year, the runners in the flower bed.

Lola

It was also the first weekend of letting Lola out after her operation. She had the stiches out so we let her in the garden. A week after this she had blood in her urine and not long after that she was in a fight with another cat twice her size and got a great big abscess on her side. You can see her shaved patch in this picture but the hair is starting to grow back now.

I am also growing strawberries, new potatoes, peas, yellow courgette, cucumber and cherry tomatoes. The potatoes will be ready soon and I can’t wait! The strawberries have flowers on them but the courgette and cucumber are barely seedlings at the moment.

 

Baked Sweet Potato with Roasted Veggies and Cashew Cream “Cheese”

Baked Sweet Potato w/ Roasted Veggies and Cashew Cream "Cheese"

 

A drizzly English sunday is the perfect setting for some home cooking. This bank holiday weekend was a stay at home one due to not only the weather, but a poorly kitty cat. While my fur baby, Lola, napping on the sofa after a rather stressful visit to the vets, I went into the kitchen. If you have followed my recent posts you will know that I have had some trouble sticking with healthy eating. I have been unadventurous with my cooking recently and opted for the easy, not so healthy options. But no more! After a life long love affair with white potatoes, I decided I would try a baked sweet potato. Crazy, I know! I have had one before, simply with a blob of lactofree cream cheese and it was tasty, if not uninspiring. I wanted to stick with that creamy feel while adding an extra element and steering clear of dairy.

Nut cheese has been on my radar (and my pinterest) for a while but I hadn’t tried it yet. I guess I found it a bit intimidating and worried about wasting a load of pricey nuts. But I love cashews and recently had (shop bought) cashew based ice cream so decided to give it a go. The cashews cream “cheese” I made for this can be made alone for any number of recipes, or as a simple dip or spread. I actually really liked it but under seasoned mine slightly. The squeeze of lemon cut through the dense, mouth coating quality, and worked really well. But it definitely needs the salt for me, and I don’t even like salt that much! I didn’t follow a recipe for this but I remembered seeing Kris Carr make a cashew cream by blending cashews and water, and decided to start from there and see where it took me. Obviously the more water you add, the thinner it will be, so go easy at first and see how you like it. You can add more but you can’t take away!

Roasted Veggies and Cashew Cream Cheese

Recipe

1 Red Pepper

1 Aubergine (Eggplant)

1-2 Courgette (Zucchini)

1 Red Onion

2 tbsp Coconut Oil

1 tsp Dried Oregano

Pinch of Salt

 

1/2 cup Cashews

1/2 of a Lemon

1 pinch of Salt (to taste)

2-4 tbsp Filtered Water

 

1 Sweet Potato (per person)

 

The cashew cream cheese serves roughly two people but the veggies should go a little further. If you are cooking for more than two, or want left over cream cheese, double the recipe.

 

Pierce the skin of the potato a couple of times and rinse. Leave wet and loosely wrap in kitchen foil. This helps it to steam and bake at the same time. Put in a preheated oven 180c/160c fan for an hour in foil plus a further 20 minutes out of the foil to crisp the skin.

Cut up all your veggies. I went for chunks of everything but the aubergine, which I did strips of, but cut them how you like. And use what veggies you like too. I stayed away from anything too similar to the sweet potato like carrots or parsnips. You want light things here ideally. Melt the coconut oil and add your veggies, sprinkling with oregano and salt if you like. Baked for 10-20 minutes, depending on the size you have cut them. It is best to plan this around the cooking of your sweet potato.

Let the cashews sit in cold water for about 10 minutes if you don’t have a powerful blender or food processor but it’s not vital. I used half a cup of nuts and used the mini blender that came with my food processor. You might find that your food processor doesn’t do much to such a small amount but it is no bad thing to have extra cream cheese for snacking or lunch! Anyway, blend the nuts with some fresh water (not soaking water), lemon juice and salt. You can add herbs if you like but the herbs on the veggies were enough for me. You want a completely smooth mixture if you can but keeping it a little chunky like ricotta is nice too. Keep this in the fridge until you need it so it sets a little.

All that’s left to do is assemble and serve. I used left over veggies and cream cheese on some brown rie pasta for lunch the following day as I made this recipe just for myself with one sweet potato as my boyfriend was asleep with a hangover!

Roasted Veggies and Cashew Cream Cheese

I also made a recipe from the Oh She Glows Cookbook called Maple Cinnamon Apple & Pear Baked Oatmeal for breakfast. I highly recommend the book if you are interested in healthy, plant based cooking. The bake was really nice, if not a little sweet. I will definitely be making it again but without the brown sugar as the maple was enough.

Oh She Glows Oatmeal Bake

 

Chocolate Avocado Cookies GF V – Back on the Wagon

Chocolate Avocado Cookies

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. I have also been doing a lot of eating lately. I have so many books on healthy living, have read so many articles, watched so many videos, visited so many blogs, that I have convinced myself that I am living a healthy life. I have been through a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) that has eased a lot of my anxiety and stomach related issues and I have begun to make the transition from chemical beauty and household products to something more natural, but I am not living as healthily as I would have myself believe.

My stomach issues have come back severely over the last week or so and I have been left scratching my head as to why. Yes, I have been having some gluten, some dairy; quite a lot of fat and sugar, but I have been cheating for quite a while now so why is it only bothering my stomach now? Don’t get me wrong, it bothered my stomach before, but it was an easy trade off for more freedom. I convinced myself that the emotional comfort was worth the physical discomfort. People are always going on about how damaging stress can be so why not eat a few bad things if it helps me relax?

So I sat down and wrote down everything I had eaten the previous two days and was pretty disgusted with the results. I looked back even further and realised that I wasn’t just cheating with the allergens that upset my stomach, I had pretty much reintroduced everything without really noticing. And where were all my home cooked meals? Where was all the fruit and veg I used to eat so much of? Have you ever tried an app called Fitness Pal? I put one days intake into that bad boy and I had eaten around 195g of sugar! In one day! Shit got real for me then. On top of all this, I hadn’t exercised in longer than I could remember. I had been on holiday to Devon and done a lot of walking but that was the most exercise I had done all year! Now my stomach troubles weren’t looking so strange. And it is high time I did something about it before all the anxiety and all those other nastys come back.

So here I am, starting small and trying to remember everything I have learnt over my six years of dealing with my various problems. Step one is going to be battling the sugar demon. One of the most difficult things to do if you have a sweet tooth like me, but one of the most rewarding. Going cold turkey does NOT work for me and I have tried it many times. Having had chocolate pretty much everyday for weeks, chocolate is the natural place to begin.

So this is where the recipe comes in if you are still with me. I’ve seen a lot of baking recipes using avocado and have never tried any of them until now. I had four nearing over ripe avocados sitting on my worktop and this seemed like the perfect time to experiment. I have to give credit to Yummy Healthy Easy who’s recipe I adapted to make these cookies and I was treading into unchartered waters. There recipe stood out to me as a healthy option using coconut oil instead of butter, and being low in sugar. I used brown rice syrup which I bought recently as a low fructose, and therefore low FODMAP, sweetener. It has the consistency of honey and a similar taste, however not a strong; good for vegans and honey haters a like.

But before I give you the recipe, I want to share a few more of my steps to health; as a reminder that the journey to health is everlasting and you can always pick yourself up when you fall off the wagon, and to set in stone my commitment to this. I have set myself the goal of 10 minutes of exercise a day. This one seems pretty easy but I have struggled with cronic fatigue or something similar for quite a while and still find exercise a lot more taxing than is natural. Therefore I plan to do my 10 minutes a day (or 20 one day if I miss one) using my aerobic step. Step two is to further explore natural alternatives to chemicals that I use on my body and in my home. I have tried a few different products this year and further promise to post reviews for you guys. Step three is simply to cook more at home and from scratch. I’m hoping my new exercise regime will give me the energy to do this. Energy makes energy, so they say. Well that’s what my mum says anyway.

Recipe

1 cup Brown Rice Flour

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp Cocoa Powder

1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

Pinch of Natural Sea Salt

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Brown Rice Syrup (or Maple or Agave)

2 sachets of Stevia (the single serving kind, or the more natural kind to taste)

1/4 cup Coconut Oil, melted

2 tbsp Ground Flax + 4tbsp Water

1 tsp Natural Vanilla Extract

Chocolate Chips (Optional; I used about 50g of chopped vegan dark chocolate)

Chocolate Avocado Dough

Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl. Gently melt the coconut oil and mix with all the wet ingredients. Introduce the two mixes together to form a dough, along with the chocolate chips/chunks. I recommend blending the avocado, or all the wet ingredients together. I mashed my avocado with a fork and there were a few lumps in the dough.

Roll into balls around the size of golf balls and spread out on a lined baking tray. Flatten gently with the palm of your hand and bake in a oven preheated to 180c/160c fan for 10-15 minutes.

Chocolate Avocado Cookies

They cracked a little but it doesn’t matter. They aren’t as sweet or moist as you may be used to but really hit the spot when you need a chocolate fix without actually having the sugar fueled treat. The use of brown rice flour makes them a little crumbly but I was really pleased with the taste and will be packing a couple in my bag to eat at work tomorrow. This recipe made 10 cookies the size as pictured.

One last thing that I am working on is living for the moment and enjoying each and every day. I have spent a long time hoping for better days; for that financial constriction to be relieved, to have a break from working in a job I don’t particularly like. And do you know how much time passes while you are wishing it away? A LOT! The one thing I am finding useful at the moment is to mentally plan my day in the morning over breakfast. And it doesn’t have to be ridged with strict times and what not. It can be as simple as what I am going to make for my evening meal and what I will do with my free time. This evening I had a vegetarian stir fry with rice noodles and baked these cookies. I had a long, relaxing bath and went on to blog this while watching Game of Thrones in the background, because I am a woman and I can multitask like that! But be kind; I am only on season one! Oh, and I did my 10 minutes of exercise straight after work.

I would love to hear any tips you might have on keeping healthy, whether it be food, exercise or stress related.

Chocolate Avocado Cookies

 

Vegan Gluten Free Oat & Date Slice

Vegan GF Oat Slice

Gluten free oats are a real staple in my diet. I have porridge most days for breakfast, I use oats in baking, and I sometime even add them to smoothies. Traditional baking recipes use a LOT of sugar, not to mention butter and hydrogenated fats. You can replace fats with things like applesauce and sugar with things like stevia, but I think the recipe often loses a lot this way. I based this recipe on a flapjack which apparently is a pancake in america, but here in England it is a baked oat, syrup and butter traybake, I guess you would call it. It is in no way cakey and holds together well. I didn’t want to use all that butter and sugar so decided on using bananas for sweetness and moisture, peanut butter for flavour and a glue, and maple syrup for sweetness. I also added chia seeds and chopped dates for a bit of extra texture and flavour.

Vegan GF Oat Slice

Recipe

3 cups Gluten Free Oats
4 tbsp Smooth Peanut Butter
4 tbsp Maple Syrup (or Brown Rice Syrup)
3 tbsp Chia Seeds
2 large or 3 small Bananas
1/3 cup Chopped Dates (not the kind coated in weird powder)

Mash the bananas with a fork and then mix in the syrup and peanut butter. Mix everything all together and bake at 180c/160c fan for 10-15 mins. I made mine about an inch thick and made six large slices so that one could replace a breakfast. Or you can make it thinner and cut smaller squares for snacks.

I really hope you like these. They hold together really well for a portable snack and are quite dense and very filling. For low FODMAP I suggest swapping the dates for nuts or seeds. Use a sweetener that suits you but I find maple or brown rice syrups a good choice. You could also do part oats, part quinoa, buckwheat or millet flakes but I haven’t tried this so I don’t know how well it would work.

Vegan GF Oat Slice