Archive for October, 2011

Happy Halloween! Green Noodle-worms and Spooky Trees

I sort of get off on the whole theme thing with my children. Just once in a while, you know….and of course Halloween is here, and what could possibly beg to be themified more than Halloween? Anything involving pumpkin does not go down well with my girls, (not even butternut squash or sweet potato). Amelia once declared butternut squash was “too sweet” which I thought was rich coming from her; she would purposefully  inhale the smoke if a chocolate factory was burning down! That said, butternut squash doesn’t taste anything like chocolate (not even smokey chocolate).

So anyway……..I thought I would go for green. You know, green, that conjures up images of green-faced witches,  slimey goo, and Frankenstein. Or, if you’re me, chlorophyll  🙂

Chlorophyll, I have heard, has a molecular make-up almost identical to that of haemoglobin, except at the centre, there is magnesium instead of iron. Furthermore, while I cannot go into this any more than what I remember from GCSE Biology, it harvests the suns rays and transforms it into food, which just fills me with delight and gratitude for the Creation and all lessons contained therein. All green leaves are very rich in minerals too, especially calcium and iron, and in general as humans, we don’t consume enough leaves. Moving down the food chain is a positive step forward for your health in my opinion.

One ideal green pasta sauce would be home-made pesto, but I was using what I had in the house; thanks to the blessed Tesco reduced shelf, I had about 8 avocados, ready to use, and all of them LOVE avocado pasta. However I felt like, it being a Halloween theme, the green needed a little more ……vibrance.

So I threw in a bottle of food colouring.

Just kidding. That really would be scarey.

I threw in some spinach.

Young spinach is so very nutritious, while being very mild in flavour. Perfect for kids smoothies (and grown-ups), salads, and obviously, green halloweeney avocado-based sauces.

Our green sauce is simply a food processed mixture of some soft avocados, a handful of babyleaf spinach, a pinch or two of sea salt, and some Nutritional yeast powder, because they all enjoy that.  It’s nothing complex in terms of flavour….but avocado is creamy and relatively neutral tasting.If so inclined, you could create some amazing sauces with slightly punchier flavours, and smother your wholegrain pasta with creamy, nutritious, unheated, unprocessed healthy fat.

So when I was in Tesco, I saw a cauliflower variety pack labelled “Ideal for Halloween” and couldn’t resist adding some spooky “trees” to our green noodle-worms. I was pretty sure they would be so excited to see purple trees, and spikey-spooky Romanesco cauliflower trees. (I know I am) I stress, excited to see them. They don’t really like eating it much though,so I also did some broccoli trees which they love don’t mind eating. I think I’ll be eating quite a bit of steamed cauiflower later.

(later)

Here it is. We used wholewheat noodles, and also made some purple and orange Halloweeny coleslaw (which I forgot to photograph, with Cashew mayonnaise, a recipe suggestion is here)

 I am absolutely amazed! Amelia who- quote- HATES- cauliflower, tucked into this and proffered various surprised “Hmmmmmm. Not bad. Prefer the green ones, but the purple and the spikey one’s aren’t bad.” (praise inDEED. Especially as they were a little aldente….) Ellie, (who has flirted with raw cauliflower, though it ended unhappily) crooned little songs “spooky purple trees, yummy spooky trees…..can I eat the raw ones in the kitchen?”  Then, I wasn’t sure if I had overdone the babyleaf spinach when Amelia asked “is this pesto?” Me: “No’ it’s avocado sauce.” (pause as she tries it, eyeing it’s extra-green hue suspiciously) “Mmmmmm. I love it!” (Note to self: Always add babyleaf spinach to avocado sauce!)

Thank you God for both purple and wierd-but-beautiful spikey edible plants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. Chlorophyll levels are reduced when the veggie is cooked, but it is only reduced in very significant amounts after quite prolonged cooking times, like boiling broccoli for 20 minutes. Eat plenty of greens raw, and opt for things like steaming for a few minutes when cooking.

P.P.S Their “dessert” is being provided by the local neighbourhood, and trust me, it won’t be appearing on this blog!  🙂  Happy Hallowe’en. Eat some plants y’all.

For updatings sake……

Our 4 stick insects are not dead, which thing I am really happy about. Even stick insects have to die, but I was worried their moment had come in an untimely manner because we had neglected to replenish them with fresh leaves, and water. Such a thing would have made me feel bad; they may be very little, but they are living creatures in our care. After only having crusty brown nothings to chew on for a few days, two of them looked literally lifeless, on the floor with all their limbs tucked in, and not the slightest sign of untucking them. I felt awful. But lo and behold, after a big handful of the local hedgerows was rapidly inserted into their living quarters, splattered with water (it’s only the “demon tap water”, sorry guys. ..I don’t think they cared!) all four of them miraculously recovered. Thus proving you should eat more raw greens (local) and drink (any old) water to get more energy. For real.

One of the reasons I forgot to oversee the wellbeing of our stick insects was that I have been unwell with a bit of flu. My whole body was aching all over (or did I do too much yoga the day before?) and I felt pretty rough. I’d like to say that I- like my stick insects- achieved a miraculous transformation by drinking green juice and water, but in reality, I forgot to drink water, and all I ate the whole day was a big bowl of Sweet-and-spicey popcorn. The next day, though bunged up and still with headache, my aches and pains at least, had disappeared. Thus proving that cayenne pepper is good for you, and a bit of refined sugar on occasion won’t kill you. (I know maple syrup is refined, because we’ve read Little House in the Big Woods, and it blew all of my idyllic ideas of draining a natural sweet sap from a tree out of the window. They boil that syrup down for almost a day!)

Still, today was better, and I ate a big salad for lunch, thus proving you can find something healthy to eat in Pizza Hut (I BYO’d dressing. I mean, BMO…….Nobody noticed and Alfredo isn’t even embarassed by that anymore! 😉 ) 

And with that, I shall close. Thus proving you don’t necessarily need a point to your blog post. Though if you would like one, try these for size:

  1. Please feed your pets, even the small ones.
  2. Eat green leaves every day.
  3. Source thyself some maple syrup and make the popcorn recipe (click on the link above)
  4. £6 for a salad is not cheap, but being with the person you love compensates  🙂 (especially when you are alone with that person, without the other little people in your life, who you also love, by the way…)

Wishing you a flu-free weekend, hopefully with a cheeky salad or two, and definitely with plenty of time with people who are special to you. x

Namaste: Non-yogic Leek and Mushroom Basmati Rice

Alfredo put a yoga DVD in my stocking last Christmas, even though I insisted that something that “slow” would never interest me. I was slightly hooked before  January was over. I totally love it, and contrary to what I previously believed, it tones, relaxes and works you (honestly!) As for the typical yogic/ayurvedic diet though, while I concur with many of its principles, we part company here: they abstain from onions, garlic, and mushrooms. ( I once saw a yogic food “wheel” and onions and garlic were in the same section as  French fries, alcohol, and burgers. I found that pretty wierd)

So, this dish is decidedly a less-than-yogic dish, despite using wholesome brown basmati rice.  

It’s nothing fancy, just a rice dish we sometimes have at home. It would probably be nice with more herbs in? 

Notes:

  • My mother in law taught me: 2 handfuls of rice per adult, 1 per child. On the rice instructions it says: Allow 80grams of rice per adult. Who would have thought it? 80grams of rice = 2 (of my) handfuls. Cool!  So for 2 adults and 3 children I did  250 grams.
  • 350 mls of water per 80 grams of rice. So I used 1 litre of liquid. Adjust according to the quantity you want to cook.
  • After lightly sauteeing the leeks, I blended them in the mini chopper. It all helps for a harmonious mealtime if there are not huge pieces of allium in the rice. Feel free to omit this step.
  • Dried mushrooms are sometimes dear but give an amazing deep, woody, earthy flavour (you see- I pay attention to Masterchef) Sometimes I buy fresh wild mushrooms when they are reduced and dehydrate them for later use. On this occasion I got a random pleasant surprise in B&M Bargains of all places, of small packets of dried shiitake mushrooms- 4 packs for £1.20! Don’t ask me why they were that cheap- don’t even cause me to wonder….. They tasted great, anyway, and nobody is sick yet  🙂
  • Brown basmati rice is great! Wonderful flavour, cooks more quickly than regular brown rice. It’s more fluffy than heavy, and Asda sell it for £1.58 a kilo.

Here come some more bullet points. You need:

  • 2 medium leeks, chopped (about 150grams)
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
  • extra virgin for olive oil, for sauteeing
  • 1-2 handfuls of dried mushrooms
  • 150grams of “regular” mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon powder (or more to taste)

Now for some numbers, I think.

  1. Cover your dried mushrooms with 1 litre of boiling water and leave.
  2. Meanwhile, chop and sautee the leeks , mushrooms, bayleaves and garlic  in the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of sea salt.  (optional for younger kids- blitz leeks once soft, in which case, it may be easier to sautee them first so you dont need to pick pieces of leek out of the mushroom)
  3. Once soft, add the mushroom “stock” of the soak water and bouillon powder,and dried mushrooms, to your leeks etc and bring up to heat.
  4. Once your stock mix is hot (though no need to leave it till boiling) add the rice.
  5. Once boiling reduce to a happy simmer (no higher than 3) for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. After 25 minutes if you haven’t had it on too high a heat, you should have some liquid left. Turn off the heat, cover, and leave for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Season additionally if desired, serve immediately.
  8. Top this with what you will…. and stir in some soy milk or even some cashew cream for a creamier dish. My friend Sarah does this delicious chickpea stew, and she does this kind of spicey mojo to spoon on top- (she blitzes almonds, raw garlic, wholewheat bread, extra virgin oil and some herbs) See her recipe here for further details. I did something similar, and it gave it a really awesome kick.

P.S. Namaste, the traditional yogic Sanskrit greeting, means, loosely, The divine in me salutes and reverences the divine in you.  I think that’s absolutely beautiful, and  a definite keeper. Onions or no onions.

Sunflower seed pesto-pate / How to open a sunflower seed in 3 slick moves

Alfredo and I were both raised on plenty of sunflower seeds.

He used to crack them out of their shell. You know, the black and white shelled ones that you can only buy in pet shops here, only in Spain they are roasted and salted in the shell. Eating pipas is a special part of the Spanish culture, and your upbringing determines whether you spit the shells all over, toss them onto the ground, or make a nice neat pile on a table or in your pocket. How you open them however, transcends all social divide. Everyone does it in a similar way; it takes a special kind of manouvre with teeth, and then tongue to get the seed out, a kind of clack-clack-flick thing. When I met Alfredo, I used to nibble down the side of the shell like a rodent, and then prise it open with my nail, and pull out one seed, by the time he had eaten 10 or 12, lamenting “it’s a lot of work for one little seed.”  “It’s the experience Beth. It’s all part of it” (clack-clack-flick…)  Now I can clack-clack-flick with the best of them. (I make a pile of the shells, just to mention).

While Alfredo was shelling pipas in Spain,  I was eating them too in Norwich, only unroasted, the regular kind of health-food store seeds that I still buy today. They were generally always in our snack cupboard, along with tiger nuts, and other such delights. I did really enjoy sunflower seeds, I remember, and I still do. All of that was by way of introduction to this next simple, delicious recipe.

Sunflower seed pate is simply made by soaking a cup of seeds for a few hours, and then blending them to a paste (in the food processor, not blender) with whichever flavours you enjoy. Mine was simply:

  • 1 cup of sunflower seeds, soaked and drained
  • the juice of half a large lemon
  • a very small glug of olive oil
  • a large pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons of water
  • a massive handful of basil (Not enough for a family pesto meal, so it had my name on it…..)

Spread on wholesome crackers, or dollop unceremoniously on top of a salad. I did the latter, and you know what- it looks beautiful to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cool nutritioney bit: Unroasted sunflower seeds are very rich in Vitamin E. This is one of the main fat-soluble antioxidants found in cholesterol particles and helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol. Only after it has been oxidized is cholesterol able to adhere to blood vessel walls , increasing risks of strokes and heart disease.

It makes sense then, as well as avoiding harmful cholesterol, to build a diet rich in natural anti-oxidants. It’s easy. You’ve guessed it. Eat more raw plants 🙂

On Alarm clocks and Caramel Shortbread

I know the nature of a blog is public. Yes, sometimes, it’s for us- we just want to express something. But let’s face it, we have pen and paper for that. Good old-fashioned journals. I have one of them too. So, I just want to express something, mainly for me, but of course, I am pretty sure it will resonate with someone reading.

I’ve just started getting up early again, really early. I had stopped doing it over summer, and I just let my little man wake me (which wasn’t so very late, to be honest!) I had made a few half hearted attempts to return to my old routine, but even as I set the alarm the night before, I didn’t really want to. And so I knew, even though I announced to A. that I would be getting up at 5am, I knew I wouldn’t. Because I didn’t really want to.  I knew that once I had begun doing it again, I would start to want to ( see “Law of the Universe“)  but I just could not take that step of “faith”.

And so it was, that something somebody said the other day really struck a chord and I felt quite enveloped with a desire to get a handle on my morning routine again. I was so excited for Monday morning. And here I am, three days later, and only 18 more till its a habit again by all accounts 😉  And I wonder, and have wondered so often, why we find it so hard to do those things which actually make us feel so amazing?

And of course, I am getting to food, because this, friends, is Loving Leaves, a tribute to plant foods, and eating close to nature. 🙂

 I began to make changes to what I eat and drink,  I suppose, when Ellie was a baby. I cut out all sugar and white flour, dairy produce, I was not a meat eater anyway, generally, I began to eat lots of raw produce etc etc  Since the time I started making these changes,  I have see-sawed all over the place before I have reached this place where I don’t crave the old stuff anymore.  

However. At one point on my see-saw, and I am trying to remember how I reached this stage, I was eating a microwave chicken curry every day, and a packet of millionnaires shortbread every day.Every.Day. And woe betide my husband if he tried to suggest that I needed to address something….I am laughing as I write this….but I was actually miserable. I cannot remember if I was fed up for other reasons and was trying to self-soothe with food…or if I just gave in to a one-off momentary craving, which fed those cravings and they took over me every evening, making me feel miserably out of control.

Okay, so all the time I was having this curry and sugar fest every evening, I would be thinking “Why am I persisting in doing something which is making me feel so disgusting?” I could feel myself putting on weight in my clothes, I felt so heavy and bloated every evening, I started getting spots for the first time since adolescence, I fell asleep the minute I sat down anywhere, and my motivation for life had also plummeted.

And here’s the thing, and it’s simply this: you do not feel vibrant and thriving when you do not live in harmony with stuff you really know to be true and good.

I don’t mean the things “people” have told you are true, but the things that are really written upon your soul, and that, experientially, you know that they make you feel good, happy, joyful, enthusiastic, peaceful and focussed. At the point of my curry and caramel shortbread episode, I really had  found out for myself how great it feels to overcome food addictions, which is why I still wonder how I abandoned it. But still. The point is…..I said “enough is enough!”   I have quite a lot of determination when I set my mind to a goal, and I just ditched it all overnight, returned to my former way of eating, and within 48 hours was saying to my husband “I feel so different!! Why did I ever stop this?!”

Such is the human being. But moving forward in any respect is sweet and I thank God for it. And I will do so again tomorrow, when I am joyfully rolling out of bed at 5am for a cheeky Chaturanga Dandasana.  🙂

Two-way Soup (Red lentils/split yellow peas)

I do not feel too enamoured towards this soup right now. And this is why:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(And to think I was miffed about a sundried tomato that was too tough to blitz) Or should I hate the blender?  No….wait…..it’s ME who aligned it incorrectly, causing the base to stay screwed in, and the whole goblet of nourishing autumnal protein to come cascading down all over the work surface and floor. Thankfully I had made so much, that this was the second goblets-load that I was blending.

I haven’t posted that many soups. I have posted the odd stew, like lentils, and some savoury smoothies (aka “raw soups“) but generally, I feel like a recipe for a autumn vegetable based soup is superfluous? I might be wrong. I just always make them by chucking whatever I have in a pot, with seasoning, blending (normally successfully) and then serving with brown rice or some home made bread, or to make the girls very happy, brown rice vermicelli from Morrisons. They love “tiny pasta” in their soup.

But since this fiasco begged a photo, I will post a recipe.  It’s dead simple.

  • 1 cup of yellow split peas (soaked overnight)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 red onion
  • 4-6 garlic cloves
  • vegetable bouillon powder (2 Tablespoons)
  • 1.2 litres of boiling water
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 2-3 sundried tomatoes thrown in whole (optional)
  • 1-2 celery stalks
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. For quickness, throw everything in the slow cooker and put on High until mid afternoon. (OR  Pre-saute the onion and garlic gently in olive oil first)
  2. Once cooked, leave to cool, and blend (careful now! Oh, did I mention I didn’t leave the soup to cool as you are supposed to, and also burnt my whole forearm?!)
  3. Once blended, I divided the soup into two pans. For the kids, I added brown rice vermicelli (cook for 5 minutes) and seasoned additionally with salt and nutritional yeast. In our version, I added some curry powder, a tiny bit of  ground ginger and garlic salt and cooked it off a bit longer. Serve with brown basmati rice, warm, in the soup.

There you have it. Healthsome protein-rich two-way soup. As opposed to every-which-way soup. Serve with warm mini spelt rolls. I did 🙂

Spelt Mini rolls

I wanted to be a wonderwoman type mother, and leave this bread rising overnight, and then do warm rolls for breakfast, but I am not sure if the dough would over-ferment with too long a rise time? Once I left a dough overnight, and the bread tasted like a brewery,so I erred on the side of caution and baked them tonight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 225grams spelt flour (2 1/4 cups)
  1. Gently warm the soy milk, sugar and oil in a pan, so it is nicely warm, but not too hot to touch.
  2. Add the yeast and leave for about 5 minutes to become frothy.
  3. Stir in the flour and salt
  4. Once it has come together as a soft dough, cover with a damp cloth in warm place- 1 hour.
  5. Knead very well, for about 5 minutes (Was I supposed to do that first? I have no idea. I was making this up)
  6. Shape into 8 small rolls. If you have issues like me, you can use some digital scales so they are all the same size.
  7. Place your rolls into the ever-useful silicone muffin trays.
  8. Leave once again in a warm place for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. (is this “proving”?)
  9. Cook at 175 C  for about 12-15 minutes or until the rolls sound hollow when tapped.

Verdict: Light and delicious. And most importantly, they didn’t smell of a pub, and every roll weighed 50 grams 😉

Ta-daa!

Sweet dreams. x

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