Archive for May, 2012

Banana Pops- You have to try these!

If you follow this blog you may have noticed how much I love the following combinations:

1. Fruit and greens for nutritious smoothies

2. Cashews and water for a blended silky smooth neutral-slightly-sweet “cream”

3.Bananas and a freezer for “I can’t believe this is only a banana!!”

Frozen bananas really do take on the most decadent creamy texture so that my Dad even asked “Are you SURE you haven’t added anything to this ice-cream- JUST bananas??”  It’s fairly easy to whip up- but you need to have pre-sliced your RIPE bananas, and then blend them to a creamy soft-serve in your mini chopper. While it takes a mere ten minutes, you have to love this recipe today, it’s even quicker and NO APPLIANCES NEEDED!

1.Peel banana, cut in half if desired

2.Insert wooden skewer or lollipop stick

3.COAT IT!  I was just finishing off a batch of peanut butter cups made with coconut oil chocolate and I used the left-over chocolate (much to Amelia’s annoyance!) You can also coat them in a little maple syrup or thinned down honey, and then roll, roll roll. Perhaps in some dessicated coconut? Or some pecans and cinnamon? granola? Some melted dark chocolate if you don’t go for coconut oil chocolate?

Allow me to present my first ever banana pops, which would look decidedly better if I had had something more exciting to roll them in, and if the chocolate hadn’t been almost set when I had this idea. (Left hand pop has a coating of peanut butter under that gloopy dogs-dinner chocolate coating. Messy, but yum!

Still- here are some little beauties, courtesy of Pinterest. Good old Pinterest.

For a super-dooper healthy one, roll in coconut, carob chips, or chopped dried fruit (www.organicauthority.com)

Or you can coat in sweeter alternatives, still safe in the knowledge that your ice cream is a banana! (www.bakersroyale.com)

Oh TOO CUTE! These are coated in white chcolate, and you could also do it with sweetened natural yogurt or (you know what I am going to say-) sweetened cashew cream! (www.skinnytaste.com)

This version is from “peas and thank you” blog (www.peasandthankyou.com) dipped in fruit yogurt

OR- banana slices for super-cute little “pops”. (Unfortunately the link on pinterest had broken for the source of this photo, it was http://www.quirkymomma.com)

Are you all inspired??!

No mini chopper needed, amazing texture, SO easy, great  fun to make with the kids, and you can go 100% natural by coating with nuts and dried fruit, or add a sweeter coating and call it a gosh darn good compromise, frankly. Now all we need is some more sun. Please tell me that wasn’t our summer!!!

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Just BREATHE!

Finances can put my stomach into knots at the best of time. Add in a generous serving of HMRC, an incompetent bank, an unwanted Limited Company, incomprehensible tax laws, accountants that never reply to emails and an inefficient payroll department, and frankly it is enough to send me over the edge. Or over to the beige side at least. I was doing some serious self-medicating yesterday. Foolishly, because self-medicating makes me feel worse than I did, before the day is through, and I kind of enjoyed the discomfort by way of penance for my foolishness…note to self…harmony..harmony….harmony between what I know and what I do…..

You don’t have to practice yoga to know that deep breathing has a calming affect upon us. Everyone knows that. “Take a deep breath“…….You can actually feel the tensed up muscles relaxing, and I can almost visualise the life giving oxygen flooding my system. I have even read that deep breathing- with a clean diet of course!- can aid in some small way with weight loss or weight maintenance.

Why?

Firstly because deep breathing increases your metabolism (supposedly) and maintains it throughout the day; other benefits then, can include greater energy levels and mental clarity (Again- with clean eating and good sleep routines  for optimum levels of  energy and an alert mind)

Secondly, when you are stressed, your body releases adrenaline  and cortisol.  Adrenaline helps your fat cells release energy (glucose) for a fight-or-flight. Cortisol helps produce glucose from proteins as an  extra back-up. The problem is not an occasional flight-or-flight “rush”. the problem is when you are almost constantly stressed, for various reasons.   This leads to an almost constant state of excess cortisol production. Excess cortisol stimulates glucose production. This excess glucose then typically ends up as stored fat.

There are a number of research studies that have shown that fat cells can, in the presence of too much adrenaline, become resistant to the effects of adrenaline. . In other words, eventually, they won’t release the fat that the adrenaline “tells” them to, but through the presence of high cortisol, they’re more responsive to fat storage.   At the same time, high levels of circulating cortisol increase the risk of obesity and increased fat storage — and particularly, abdominal obesity, one of the most dangerous types of obesity, and one that contributes to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.

To this we add, that in times of stress, we tend to “self-medicate” like I was yesterday (ironic phrase) with foods that are either high-fat, high-sugar, or both. Or perhaps we self-medicate with drinks like caffeinated drinks, coffee, alcohol or sugary drinks, which either throw our blood sugar out of whack or increase cortisol levels in our system once again.

In short friends……Eat clean. Breathe deeply.  Love.

And -when relevant- get a decent accountant.

In defence of Bread

I had to Google “defence or defense”. Defense is American English, so now I know.

By way of introduction,firstly, I  quote a friend: “It is amazing how mentally, you feel so much better when you eat well!!”  (Amen to that)

Secondly, I read a great article on the inherent problems of comfort eating (ie- we eat foods that taste good for a minute but actually make us feel more uncomfortable over time- follow this link to read article) In the article, she lists a few common comfort foods- “coffee/bread/potatoes/cheese/chocolate”. Let’s assume by potatoes she means the fried varieties (I don’t know many people who comfort eat on jacket spuds or boiled potatoes) and recognise that this list is by no means complete.  When I read it, I thought “Why does bread get such a raw deal in some corners of the world of nutrition?”

On reflection it is probably because “bread” as a comfort food is synonymous with “bread products”- generally white, and often sugary: Garlic bread, pizzas, bagels, croissants (coffee anyone?), cinnamon rolls, Naan breads (with creamy curries) buttery brioche rolls with hot chocolate, and a long etcetera. As “comforting” on our palates and mood as these bread products are in the short term – they can easily become the mainstay of our snack/”comfort” repertoire, and the reality is, they clog up your intestine with gluten (glue-ten), pile on excess pounds, contribute to unstable blood sugar levels (which also inhibits weight loss), and generally make you feel heavy and tired after eating them. Not so comforting.

There are wholesome breads- 100% wholegrain, preferably home-made, or perhaps sourdough or sprouted grain varieties, which have a ton of health benefits, and have a more wholesome , earthy flavour. While it may take you a while to re-train your palate if you never eat these breads, I absolutely believe your palate can learn to appreciate, yea, even love new flavours. It’s a universal law, not found in science books, but nevertheless a law, and I wrote a post on it here.

Here are some pointers for making bread a healthsome part of your diet, offered in my humble opinion (it is my blog, after all!)

  • There is no need to “go gluten free” just for the sake of it. However, plenty of people do find that some inexplicable unpleasant symptoms disappear when they cut wheat out, so it is something you could try if you are at the end of your tether with problems and you wish to try it out.
  • Some people respond adversely to yeast, in which case, you may wish to opt for crackers like Ryvita. I would not wish yeast-free breads on my worst enemy, or indeed soda breads.
  • In short- with reference to the previous two- TUNE INTO YOUR BODY and note how different foods make you feel.
  • Eat your breads WHOLEGRAIN. I cannot stress this enough. If you are trying to eat close to the earth, then use flours that have been made by simply crushing the grain, period. These grains are packed full of fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein, and amazing plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that strengthen your system in dozens of different ways.
  • If you have time to make your own, you give yourself an extra gift, of knowing exactly what goes into your food, and feeling all chirrupy and domesticated to boot.
  • Lastly- for me this is my rule of “balance” that I usually follow- Eat your bread with plenty of raw plants. Suggestion below:

Chop up nigh-on every raw veggie you can lay your hands on: tomatoes, cucumber, celery, red onion, pepper, lettuce, olives, sprouts, grated carrot, chopped sugarsnaps- you get the idea. Aim for a minimum of  5-6 colours.

Mash a medium sized ripe avocado, with some salt, and mix through your salad until all the veggies are covered.

Stuff into a wholemeal pitta pocket (with hummous if you want some extra plant-protein)

Serve with a freshly squeezed juice, or beautiful water.

Now that is comforting!!

And invigorating, energising, awakening, strengthening, and -God willing-  habit-forming.  🙂

Now go forth and love yourselves!

A-foraging!

Welly-boots donned, rather cute basket at the ready, and in the company of 4 cute foragers (3 small, 1 big)- thus began my first wild garlic forage. the girls were beyond excited to carry the basket…somehow it’s not the same as a Tesco bag which is what I wanted to bring. They were right, I was wrong. Foraging wild garlic in a Tesco bag is just wrong.  🙂  Okay seriously, it was really exciting. Of course I had to try the flowers. I felt so mother earthy eating a flower. The foraging website that told me “Flowers of herbs and spices generally taste similar, but stronger”- was right. That was one punchy flower.Mouth still slightly burning, I decided to stick to the leaves only, but there was no stopping the kids, for as soon as they had heard the flowers were edible too, they were off…and I didn’t like to quash the foraging spirit.

And so, with our precious cargo, with frequent cries of “careful with the garlic!” we crossed streams, squelched in the mud, and generally rejoiced in Wales. Did I mention this was in the grounds of a castle up the road? Oh yes, and we happened upon a flock of sheep with their lambs as we left the grounds.

So here we are now, enjoying a random teacher training day in the middle of a term, and Amelia was really excited to make garlic pesto. On reflection she decided that, for herself, she would make basil pesto with just a few of the garlic leaves thrown in. One leaf, to be precise. 🙂  So we made two batches- basil pesto (+1 wild garlic leaf)  and garlic and walnut pesto. We have just had a large and delicious bowl of wholewheat pasta, with basil pesto (the kids) and garlic pesto (me-I mixed it with the basil one)

I didn’t note down quantities, but as you know, pesto is basically:

Leaves+extra virgin olive oil+pine nuts+salt+cheese+garlic (optional)

Please note the following:

  • If you are a cheapskate (like me) you can substitute cashews for pine nuts
  • If you avoid cheese (like me, generally) you can throw in some Nutritional yeast, I always do.
  • If you are making pesto with your wild garlic leaves, you will want to omit garlic cloves, obviously!
  • If you avoid salt, well done, but your pesto will not be as tasty. Just my opinion. 🙂
  • If you are doing this in a food processor (does anyone do it in a pestle and mortar anymore?) you will need to PACK your leaves in, till it seems too full at first.
  • For the rest, taste-test, or look for a recipe online. Sorry to be unhelpful!

The garlic pesto was really delicious, I enjoyed it on every level, and I love that we picked it in a welsh forest!

More recipes to follow!

Luscious food facials

This post is dedicated to my friend Patricia because her Facebook status update gave me the idea for this post. Patricia and I met while I lived in Spain; she was on a year from the States with her husband and young family, and it was in Spain with all the sun and wonderful markets that she began to wake up to the joys of produce over packaged.  🙂  She returned to the States, trained, and now has her own successful business in Yoga and Ayurvedic treatments; here is her website: Radiant Living Yoga and Ayurveda. Hooray for inspirational friends!

Sadly, I have never had a food facial, but boy, do I plan to! It’s not especially novel, and I figure it makes total sense, if we try and fuel our insides with clean, green plant food, then why not opt for more natural live, chemical-free skincare? That said….I don’t have a clue about this! I would need to do a little more reading about the different benefits of different foodstuffs, so you may officially consider this a half-hearted blog post with little specific useful information (except a link to a great lady’s website)

It goes without saying that certain oilier face masks will be for very dry skin, and that while some mild tingling may be normal (even good) – discomfort means “get this substance off my face!”  I was going to say let common sense be your guide, but I would probably say, let your intuition and imagination dance you through it, because I am sure it is pretty fun!  For more specific benefits of different foodstuffs on the skin, you will have to investigate further (like I say- half hearted post….) here are a few tips I grabbed from a Google search.

Moisten your face with a very warm flannel to open the pores, or use a bowl of hot water (you know…like when you had a bad cold….)

Suggested face-masks

  • avocado (for very dry skin) 15-20 minutes
  • Honey (a natural humectant- in other words draws moisture from the air to your skin) 15 minutes
  • Oats and water mixed  (15 minutes or until hard)  Soothing to irritated or itchy skin
  • Natural yogurt (live)  Add lemon juice for greasy skin, and oatmel and honey for dry skin
  • mashed strawberries and honey (15 minutes)
  • papaya (5 minutes)
  • pineapple (just rub over the surface of your face for a few minutes, as with the papaya OR, make a blitzed mixture)
  • blitzed cucumber (optional: with yogurt) So soothing…..
  • egg whites (okay so it’s not a plant) to open up pores and leave skin refreshed
  • egg yolks for a deep moisturising facemask, with honey- even better!
  • ripe banana (alternative- blitz with some avocado)  (15 minutes)

Notes:

-Some will need to be tried with a friend as you will have to be horizontal – could get messy otherwise!

-After your natural enzyme-rich face mask, rinse your face with warm water until clean, finally, with COLD water (to close pores) and gently pat your face dry.

-Round off your natural skin care session with a home-made juice or smoothie. Please don’t make your smoothie with second hand facials. That’s just dirty.  😉

-For the lazy option, try this  🙂  Not sure if it is as much of a sensory magical experience though  🙂

Enjoy!

As promised: Brazil nut “cheese” spread

Clearly, the inverted commas are there because, well….it’s not cheese. But I have to say, that nuts make a wonderful savoury white spread, that my friend (who consumes plenty of cheese) said “It really does taste of cheese to me!” Cholesterol free? Why thank you. Packed pull of selenium? I’d love some. Super easy to make? I believe I shall!

As I mentioned, you really do not need a recipe for this, just a palate. But here is how I made this particular batch:

  • 1/2 a cup of brazil nuts
  • 1/2 a cup of unroasted cashews

Soak the nuts overnight. The cashews don’t need this long but the Brazils definitely do.

Drain, and place in your mini chopper. Process with

  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice (fresh if possible)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

until you have a fine “meal”. It won’t be smooth yet. Now, with your processor running, gently stream in the water. I needed

  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon

but see how you go. It’s best to add to little initially than too much.

If you have a mini chopper and cannot add the water as the machine is running, then just add it in before blitzing. If you need to scrape down the sides or lid of your processor, then do so. Process for 2-3 minutes until you have a smooth mixture. Season to taste. Because basically I didn’t have a clue because I do not actually make this that often, I  added:

  • 1/2 teaspoon herbes de provence (a mixture of rosemary, thyme, marjoram and oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Selenium “cheese”

Yep, delicious!

This can be eaten immediately, though I find the flavours are better after a day in the fridge. Also, if this is an issue for you, the Brazil nut flavour diminishes by the next day.  Last week I added some herby mixture that also had tiny pieces of sun dried tomato in and that worked really well.

And by the way, if you want to go one extra step, you can leave this in a cheesecloth (or nut milk bag) overnight, in a sieve, with something heavy on top to squeeze out some of the liquid. This will give you a firmer cheese. And if you want to get really fancy and you have a dehydrator , you can take your firmed up cheese, shape it  in one of those metal rings (as I did for the  picture) and dehydrate it for a few hours, which gives it a nice crust.

And that is all for now today,friends. I have a little friend to deposit in playgroup, some “cheese” to eat, and a rather long  to-do list!

Healthy, Dreamy, Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream

Don’t look now but we have had 3 sunny days in a row! With a bite in the wind that defies all logic and climatic compassion, it is true……but sun, nevertheless. Praise be! Quick- let’s make some ice-cream!

Amelia is on designated treat duty for our designated family night. She wants to make chocolate brownies with whipped cream, generously sprinkled with a helping of freeze dried strawberry powder and meringue. She’s a classy lady alright. And she knows that anything goes when you are in charge of Treats.

The “rules” for Treat person are, if you choose cookies or cakes etc (be they home made or bought), you should also provide an alternative for those who wish to eat a little cleaner’n’greener. Clearly this week she was not interested in even selecting an interesting fruit, as she said to me with a dismissive wave of the hand- “why don’t you… you know Mum, do one of those healthy treat things that you like?”  🙂

Did I need to be told twice? I think not.

Fortuitously I had a large glass of cashew cream* in the fridge, some vanilla pods in the “junk drawer” (must see to that drawer!) and frozen strawberries in the freezer, because 3 boxes for £5 in Tesco means TONS of affordable strawberries all year round for smoothies and the like. It was clear what had to be done. Step this way………..

*CASHEW CREAM is nothing more or less than unroasted cashews that have been left to soak overnight until soft, and blended with water until silky smooth. Approximate ratio of  water to nuts is 1:1, and please note, the mixture will thicken in the fridge somewhat so bear that in mind.

Dreamy Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 2 cups of frozen strawberries, somewhat thawed
  • 1 cup of cashew cream
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup liquid sweetener (I used half maple, half honey) or more to taste
  • 1/8t salt

Blend to a silky smooth mixture and add to ice-cream maker to finish off.  If you do not have an ice-cream maker, I must point out I have a few tips for alternative super-healthy ice creams in the desserts section: Here Do have a browse, and please feedback your own ideas friends. I am always open to ideas.

Healthy yumminess (child approved) Read on…

In closing, may I share the small MASSIVE food triumph with Amelia with this ice-cream. I should point out that the last strawberry-cashew ice cream I made did not make it past the critical Second-Spoonful barrier. Spoonful one was heartily approved of, but spoonful 2….she pulled a face and said “It tastes of dates or something”. Me: “Do you mean, it tastes real, and wholesome, and not sweet enough for your sugar-adulterated palate?”

Just kidding. I said: “There are no dates in it!”

Okay so, she did her super-dooper Brownie thing, and she loved making them. So we are all having treats and she asks to try the strawberry ice cream. Ellie and Isaac were both enjoying it but Amelia is a tougher nut to crack, so I was pleased she was even trying it. I was not expecting any miracles considering last time.,,,but…”OH MY GOSH, that is SO NICE!”  (me…quiet….waiting for Second Spoonful) Again: “oh my gosh, that is the BEST ice cream!” (Me…ecstatic. I am such a geek) “Can I have some more for breakfast?” Me: But of course!

It may rain tomorrow. But we have strawberry ice-cream anyway. For breakfast, because, why not?!  And it doesn’t even taste of dates.All is well.

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