An easy lunch, raw (almost)

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I woke up this morning with the most voracious appetite.  This probably had something to do with my having a quick, and poor excuse for a, dinner before attending a 90 minute yoga class last night (as a brief aside: I’m loving yoga!  Seriously good).  So, despite having breakfast between 9:30-10:00 this morning, by 12:00 I was starving.  Drum roll please, my new favourite lunch- lettuce leaf wraps.  Some may call it rabbit food, some may think of it as a nourishing, satisfying almost raw lunch (you can tell which camp I fall into).  It’s great if you have little time and are spending the majority of your day stuck in front of your computer.  Unfortunately, I am spending most of the next week or so stuck at my desk revising and writing essays.  Great.  Anyway, here’s the raw-tastic gem (gem, get it, gem lettuce…although I’m using romaine lettuce, doh).

Raw Wraps (served just me)

Ingredients

Filling:
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 carrot, grated
4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp red onion, finely sliced
1 spring onion, sliced
small handful of cashews, roughly chopped
freshly ground pepper, to taste
Fresh juice of 1/3 lime

3 large romaine lettuce leaves, washed (iceberg lettuce also works well, or I guess you could use large cabbage leaves)

1-2 tbsp of your favourit hummus (using raw hummus would make this meal entirely raw)

Method

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a small bowl.  Lay out your romaine lettuce leaves and spread with the hummus.  Scatter the filling down the middle of the leaves, roll, and devour!

Amazing.  I’ve had these for four days in a row now and I’m still not tired of them.  You don’t need to be strict with the filling ingredients at all; mix it up a little and use whatever ingredients take your fancy or have lying around.  I intend on making these with a rice filling for our dinner at some point.  You could use some baked or stir-fried tofu, lentils, your favourite gluten-free grain; the list is endless.

Simple Roasted Rat & Millet

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Ingredients

1 large courgette, sliced and cut into moons
1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 tomatoes, chopped into chunks
1 tin of good quality tinned tomatoes
2tsp cajun spice blend
2tbsp olive oil

150g millet, rinsed
1 red onion, finely diced
500ml vegetable stock (a well flavoured one makes a big difference)
2 tsp dried oregano
freshly ground salt and pepper

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Method

Pre-heat oven to 170C (fan)

Put all the the vegetables (not including the tinned tomatoes) into a roasting tray.  Add the olive oil and cajun spice blend, toss everything together to mix.  Roast in pre-heated oven for 1 hour, stirring half way through for even cooking.  After an hour, when the vegetables are soft and some are beginning to look chargrilled on the edges add the tin of chopped tomatoes.  Return to the oven for half an hour.

25 minutes before the roasted vegetables are ready rinse the millet, and add to a saucepan (on a medium-high heat) with the red onion.  Constantly stir until the millet starts giving off a “popped corn” aroma, this should take about 5 minutes.  Then add the stock and oregano, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until the millet has absorbed all the stock and is light and fluffy.  If you want it more al dente then don’t cook for 15-20 minutes or until it has a bit of bite.

Season and serve.

Leftovers for lunch

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Veganised Apple Crumble

Vegan Crumble

For those who are familiar with my blog, I have been experimenting with different ways of eating with the hope of feeling more healthy and energetic, whilst healing ailing digestive symptoms and unbalanced blood sugar levels.  All summer I have been reading lots about the raw food and vegan movements and have become convinced of the health benefits of both (I will publish my findings in due course, hopefully).  So, I have been trying to incorporate their ways of eating into my diet for the last two months, but not on a strict basis.  However, over the last month I have taken on a strictly vegan diet, inspired by the many stories of wellness and wellbeing I have read.  This is my fourth week into it, and I have never felt so great.  I have also cut out caffeine, and am limiting my intake of sugary, processed, and artificially flavoured food.  It may sound pretty daunting and even foolish since I already have to cut out gluten from my diet.  But this is not the case, all that is demanded of these additions (or subtractions) from my diet is a bit of creativity, research, planning and open-mindedness.  And honestly, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice when finally feeling well is the result.  I have been hesitant to publish this official shift on my blog, although I have alluded to it on a number of occasions, as I am yet to see how this way of eating will work out when I have returned to university, shift work and a more busy schedule.  But any difficulties and slip-ups I may experience I will share with you here.

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Onto the best bit, food!  On Friday night we were going over some close friends of ours for dinner.  Having informed the chef of my additional dairy free dietary requirements, she was uncertain as to what to make for dessert so I said I’d take care of.  In the past, my last minute, pull out of the bag pudding has been Apple Crumble.  However, the version I have made has dairy in it.  Hence it was time to veganise it, with a few extra modifications.  I know I just said that I am limiting my sugar intake, but a girl deserves a treat every now and again!  The end result was great (but the husband did say the crumble component was more crumbly and dry than usual; no pleasing some people!).  Here’s the recipe:

Tom’s Favourite Apple Crumble (serves 6)

Filling:

1lb bramley cooking apples (or a mix of bramley and any eating apples), peeled and chopped into chunks
2tbsp demerara sugar
2tsp vanilla essence
Juice of half a lemon
50g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces

Crumble Mix:

6oz gluten-free flour (I used Dove’s Farm Rice Flour)
2oz ground almonds
3oz golden caster sugar
4oz dairy-free spread (I used Pure Sunflower Spread)
1tsp baking powder

Method

Preheat the oven to 170C (fan).

Place all the filling ingredients in a shallow overproof bowl and stir to combine.
Place all the crumble ingredients into a bowl. Mix and rub between fingers until the crumble resembles fine breadcrumbs. Put in the middle of the oven for approx 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown. Serve straight from the oven, or leave to cool and store covered in the fridge until needed, and where it will keep for a few days. But be sure to reheat the crumble before serving with dairy-free ice cream or, my favourite, alpro soya chocolate or vanilla desserts. Delicious.

Superfood Broccoli

Good evening!

I am interrupting tonight’s studying to inform you that we have returned from our trip to Turkey, the serotonin levels have been boosted and I’m glad to be eating more than just peanut butter, rice cakes/rice, nuts, fruit/dried fruit and salad!  Yes, that’s right- I survived a week in Turkey on a gluten free and vegan diet (both concepts are definitely not understood in Turkey).  I feel quite proud of myself.  I was expecting to lapse on the vegan front but I did not.  So, I am almost 3 weeks into my strictly gluten free, vegan diet experiment and have never felt better.  No more rogue stomach issues, headaches, runny nose etc.  Furthermore, I had some blood tests done at my local surgery and not only have they come back looking healthy, but my doctor has stated that he’s happy for me to be eating a gluten-free vegan diet.  I’m not committing to a vegan lifestyle yet though, who knows what challenges it will pose when real life resumes and I am back to working on a busy ward and trying to balance study life, as well as looking after the husband and everything else that makes up my life as I know it.  Anyway, tonight I have a few confessions to make.

1.  I love hummus.  Seriously, how I missed it whilst I was away.  My new favourite lunch is a nice big raw salad with hummus.

2.  This hummus isn’t homemade.  I know what you’re thinkingi but honestly, I can’t seem to get the balance of flavours and ingredients right.

3.  I love BBC Radio 2.  The husband informs me that Jeremy Clarkson once said that you know you’re in your thirties when you start listening to
Radio 2.  But alas, I am merely in the latter stages of my twenties.  What’s a girl to do.

On to my favourite subject, healthy food.  Tonight, I was fancying something quite light, and void of garlic and onion (I overdid it with the garlic in last night’s meal).  During my frequent internet breaks whilst studying I came upon this recipe from Vegan Yum Yum.  It was just what I was looking for; I could use the head of broccoli I had lying happily in the bottom of our fridge, and other storecupboard ingredients.  It’s a light pasta dish with a mix of flavours working together to make a subtle but tasty meal.  And, no heavy pasta sauce.  Perfect.  I confess the picture isn’t the best but it gives you an idea.

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Spicy Lemon Pepper Pasta with Broccoli(courtesy of Vegan Yum Yum with some slight modifications, serves 2)

Ingredients

200g corn pasta (I used Dove’s Farm Organic Pasta Shells)
1 head of broccoli cut into small florets
6-8 oil-packed sundried tomatoes, sliced
1/4 courgette, sliced and quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
3 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method

Cook pasta as per instructions.

When there is about 5 mins left before the pasta is done, heat the oil in a wok (medium-high heat) and add the broccoli.  Coat in the oil and cook for a 1-2 mins.  Add the tomatoes and chilli flakes.  Toss together and leave alone to cook for 2-3 mins, toss again.  Repeat this until the broccoli is tender but still retains enough bite and flavour.

Drain the pasta well, add to the wok and mix everything together.  Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and a bit more oil (if needed).  Serve up and enjoy!  It’s the simple recipes that sometimes taste the best, and this is no exception.

Summer Stew for Soothing a Cold

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Can you believe it is summer and I have a cold.  It started scowling at me last Thursday and since then has been lurking around before revealing itself fully over the last day or two.  I cannot stop sneezing nor can my nose stop running.  Fortunately, I am studying at home with no plans of leaving the house until this evening; minus a very brief shopping trip for some gluten free vege burgers and a birthday present.  Even though I have next to no apetite (very strange) I put my sensible hat on this aching, stuffed-up head and decided to make myself a warming summer stew using some of summer’s best vitamin C containing ingredients, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper for good measure.  That’ll show you Cold!  Plus, it was very easy thus not putting my ailing body under too much strain… come to think of it, I am not aware of any cooking that is particularly strenuous!  Be that is it may, this dish is very easy, and quick to prepare.

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Summer Vegetable Stew/Casserole (appparently there’s a difference between the two; i’m just not sure what it is.)

Ingredients

1 red pepper, chopped into chunks
1 yellow pepper, chopped into chunks
1 lovely, long green courgette, sliced into half moons
1 tin of good quality chopped tomatoes
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp (approx.) cumin seeds
A pinch of cayenne pepper (maybe 1/3 tsp)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tin of butter beans or another favourite pulse/legume

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 190C (fan-assisted).

Put the peppers, onion and courgette into a casserole dish or roasting tin and sprinkle over the cumin seeds, cayenne pepper and olive oil.  Mix so that everything is well coated with the oil.  Add a little more oil if you think it needs it.  Put in the oven for an hour, stirring half way through.  When the vegetables are soft and the peppers are beginning to look chargrilled add the tinned tomatoes and butter beans.  Mix well and return to the oven for another 20 mins.  Ensure that the butter beans are heated through before serving.

Serve with your favourite grain or as a baked sweet potato/normal potato topping.  I had this for lunch so I used it as a topping for my rice cakes.  Sounds random but it works; especially with some guacamole spread on the crackers first.  Yum.

Sans Sugar

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Is sugar really that bad for us?  As a self-confessed sugar addict I would like to say, emphatically no.  Unfortunately, it seems I am incorrect.  Aside from the well publicised message in our childhood that it is bad for our dental health, it has other negative consequences on our bodies.  Now, I don’t want to be a doom-monger and preach that we should all cut sugar out of our lives now, before it’s too late (no melodrama here at all…).  However, it may be worth having a break from one’s love affair with the sweet stuff and keeping it as a true treat.  Before I give you some points to think about as to why we should do this, I would like to say that this conversation does not include naturally occuring sugars found in fruit.  Furthermore, I am not going to leave you treatless as I have included a recipe for cookies that, whilst not as sweet as your palate may be used to, are still delicious (in a very healthy kind of way).

Why Sans Sugar?

Here are just a few points to consider before having your next sugar laden breakfast or snack.

  • It lowers your immune system’s ability to respond to illness, suppressing it and thereby leaving it open to attack whilst it’s defences are down.
  • It can lead to obesity, and has been linked with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and type II diabetes.
  • Whenever we eat or drink something with a high glycemic load (or high in simple sugars) the pancreas has to release larger amounts of insulin.  This eventually leads to a dramatic drop in our blood sugar levels.  The body will then have to work harder to achieve balance and will signal that we need more food.  However this food is needed in order to achieve internal stability rather than because our energy output has increased that much.  Therefore, this extra food could lead to weight gain, unless regular exercise is part of your lifestyle,  as excess food is eaten.  Essentially, a high-fibre, low sugar diet is required as this provides the most stable blood sugar levels when ingested as well as having numerous other benefits.
  • Decreasing ones sugar consumption can help in the management of mental illness by preventing dramatic drops in blood sugar levels thereby stabilising mood.
  • For me, the most important reason for abstaining from sugar is that it keeps your body in as a natural and even a state as possible.  When I give my body energy I want it to be from natural and wholesome sources that will nourish by body rather than tax it.

There are many other reasons for abstaining from sugar.  Please feel free to post these, correct anything I’ve written (although I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible; i’ve included some examples of my sources below), or just post your experiences with or without sugar.  For now, I will leave you with these sugar free treats that your body will love.

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Peanut Butter and Raisin Cookies (from Barbara Cousins Cooking Without cookbook, and with modifications)

Ingredients

85g chopped, dried dates
60ml water
85g dairy free margarine (I used PURE sunflower spread)
115g smooth peanut butter (I used Whole Earth’s organic variety)
1/2 – 1 tsp vanilla extract
85g rice flour
115g quinoa flakes
55g raisins
70g unsalted, chopped almonds

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170C.

Put the dates and water in a saucepan, simmer and stir until the dates are soft and most of the water has dissolved.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the margarine.  Stir until the margarine has melted.

Pour the dates and margarine mixture into a separate bowl, add the rice flour, quinoa flakes,peanut butter and vanilla extract.  Stir together until the mixture has thoroughly combined.  Add the raisins and almonds, stir to combine once again.

Roll the mixture into small egg-sized balls, place on an ungreased baking tray and flatten with the back of a fork.

Bake the biscuits for 15 mins or so, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.

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Example of Sources (not following any particular referencing system and, for the record, I really don’t get on with the Harvard referencing system)

Oral disease volume 15(6), “Nutrition and Health: Guideline for Dental Practitioners”, by C Palacios, KJ Joshipura, WC Willett (2009)

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care volume 9(1), “Impact of Nutrition on Ageing and Disease”, by Bengmark, Stig (2006)

The Great American Detox Diet by Alex Jamieson (2005)