Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chilled Pea and mint soup

It's hot here! In the 90's so I've been trying a few new chilled soups.

Here's a particularly "green" one!  Chilled Pea and Mint Soup. The color is quite shocking don't you think?

Made with fresh English peas and mint from the garden.

Did you know mint is a good antacid, so helps with digestion (and relieves flatulence!)? Try chewing on a leaf after your meal.  It also helps with morning sickness.

I had a bowl of the soup with some of my almond and flax flatbread.  Yum!

Did you know that mint has a square stem?  Other plant families have square stems, but not many...and not all plants in the mint family have square stems - but it is still a useful family "trait"! Other herbs and plants in the same family include basil, bee balm, catmint, chia seeds, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme!  It seems like a diverse group of herbs/plants rather than a family,  but if you look at their flowers and how their leaves are arranged, you can see the similarities. 

Tomorrow in my food as medicine class we are making two other chilled soups so I'll see if I remember my camera and take some snaps to show you. 

Are you keeping cool or do you live somewhere where you need to still keep warm?
Monday, April 29, 2013

Summer Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce

I made some summer rolls using brown rice paper and nori seaweed.  Adding the nori seaweed sheet really stabilizes the rolls so they are less floppy and easier to roll - and eat.  Just put the moistened rice paper rounds down first and then cover with the nori sheet. Then pile on the veggies and roll it up.

I stuffed them full of lots of raw vegetables and then made a cashew dipping sauce to go with it.

Here's the recipe for the cashew dipping sauce:

1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup cucumber, chopped
1/2 small red pepper, deseeded
Dash of gluten free tamari
Squeeze of lime juice

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process briefly. Add water a little at a time to make a smooth sauce, of the consistency you prefer.

Yes, it's getting hot here! Up to 90 degrees today so cold food rule!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Take time to smell the "flowers on Friday"

Taking time to stop, look at, and smell flowers is something I love to do...and right now, every time I go in the bathroom, the sight of this wonderful rhododendron plant through the window just stops me in my tracks.  It is so beautiful and full of flowers!  It just catches your eye and you have to stop and be amazed!

We have a few bushes, all different colors, but this one below is at its peak right now.

The others are lovely shades of pinks, purples and reds, and across from the rhododendrons are azaleas - also full of blooms this time of year!

What a stunning blaze of color.

So I'm going to start a 'flowers on Friday' blog post, making sure that some time of my week is spent actually wandering around the garden and enjoying all that nature has to offer.

It started last week with the peonies, and this week rhododendrons.....what will be up next week?

I hope you have found the time to  stop and admire nature this week...if not, how about today? It will lift your spirits and provide a little snippet of relaxation.  A wonderful moment in your day.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

For my recent book club meeting at my house, we had read (my selection) a book by Rachel Joyce called "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry". It is a sweet read.

And we had a great discussion about the book.  We learned a lot about each other in the process too.

The story is about Harold who gets a letter from an old friend who tells him that she has cancer and is dying. Harold hasn't been in touch with this friend for years, so he sits down to write her a letter.  He goes to mail it in the postbox, but then keeps on walking, and then keeps on walking....He decides that he will walk the length of England (ill prepared) - from his house in the south, to where she is being cared for in the north and hand deliver the letter.  Over 600 miles. By doing this, he believes she will stay alive.

The story tells of his pilgrimage and how his wife deals with it, how she is supported by Rex, the neighbor, and all the people Harold meets on the way.

It is lovely.  Rachel first wrote it as a play for British Radio, at a time when her father was dying of cancer.

For our bookclub, I charted out Harold's journey on a map and decided that I would make goodies to eat that were all goodies "to go" - ie Harold could have taken them on his journey!

I made buckwheat and lemon mini-pots - perfect for travelling - you could even carry it in your pocket, and then also wrapped up some all-day-long oat bites and some oat flapjacks.

A hedgerow gathering, as Harold would have done, of edible pansies on the buckwheat lemon mini-pots

They went down well :-D

I recommend the book. Harold's pilgrimage and how he changes is delightful.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hemp Butter

I made some homemade hemp butter this week.

I used the little container that comes with my immersion blender and just blended the hemp seeds in that.  I've used the same process to make nut butters.  After a while, it didn't seem to be creaming into butter, so I added just a few cashews and that got it all going.

I like it.  It's not too grassy in taste.  I say that because I tried making hemp milk the other week and it just tasted really green and grassy. I didn't like it at all. But the butter is quite tasty and a good texture.

So - its a simple recipe - bunch of hemp seeds. Whizz and if it doesn't cream, add just a few cashew nuts!

Hemp seeds are a great source of both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in a perfect ratio.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sugar-free Strawberry balsamic chia jam

I'm so excited with my new jam recipe!  For a few years now, I've been wanting to make jam without refined sugar and have tried it before with pectins to set the fruit, but its never been very successful.

Now however, I have a solution! As I've been preparing for my Food as Medicine class on fatty acids, I've been using chia seeds more and realized that I could use their gelling capacity to "set" the jam. So forget the pectin and use chia seeds instead.

It is so quick and easy to make, is high in fiber, high in essential fatty acids, you don't need the sugar, and just delicious.

Here's the recipe:

3 cups of sliced fresh strawberries
1 tbsp coconut nectar
1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

In a medium saucepan, bring the fruit and coconut nectar to a low boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Use a potato masher to mash the fruit, but leaving a few pieces larger for texture.
Stir in the chia seeds and keep simmering over low heat, until it thickens (approx 15 minutes). Stir occasionally so it doesn't stick.
When thickened, remove from the heat and add balsamic vinegar and stir.  Taste and pour into a jam jar. Refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.

The balsamic vinegar really brings out the flavor of strawberries. If you use a different fruit you could add spices instead or vanilla extract.  If you use a less sweet fruit, you may need a little more coconut nectar, but wait until the end and taste it before you adjust.

You may be able to keep this jam longer than 2 weeks, but I haven't been able to, as its always eaten within a week!

I use it on toast (especially with homemade nutella), but also love a spoonful on my cereal in the morning. You could also try it on oatmeal, muesli, granola, cookies, on puddings, dairy-free ice cream.....Once you try it, you'll find lots of ways of using it.

You know I'm going to be using this idea in lots of different ways.

Chia seeds are an excellent source of the essential fatty acids - both omega 3 and omega 6, with a higher level of 3 compared to 6.
Friday, April 19, 2013

Moroccan carrot dip

We have new friends coming around tonight for nibbles, and then we are all going out to dinner together.  I was hoping I had some basil to make the white bean basil dip, but didn't I made a moroccan carrot dip instead, which I haven't done in a while.

I'm serving it with poppadoms and also slices of apple.

The dip is very simple, and so creamy.  You wouldn't think with carrots as the main ingredient that it would be thick and creamy.  Thanks go to the addition of a few cashew nuts: 1 cup carrots to 1/3 cup cashews. Put everything in the Vitamix and blend.  Carrots, cashews, cinnamon, coriander, cumin,.....gosh its a C-dip!!  Also has some vinegar, fennel seeds and ginger. Oh - and of course my sprinkle of black cumin seeds on top!  They get everywhere nowadays!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pink Peonies

Peonies are one of my favorite flowers. I love them as they are so full - so many petals - and yet still delicate.

This is the only one in flower right now - and its bloom is 9 inches in diameter! A huge flower.  Yet it still looks so delicate and fragile, with petal upon petal curled to create that large bloom.

A second peony plant is not yet in flower and that one has lots of buds, so I will be enjoying peonies for a few weeks yet.

What is your favorite spring flower?
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Crispy Gluten free Flatbread

I made a lovely new flatbread recipe yesterday - with almond flour and flax seed.  I was so pleased with how it came out and the recipe yielded enough to freeze half of it.

I topped it with a pesto sauce with no added oil, some fresh tomatoes, red onion, red pepper and black cumin seeds!  The pesto was made with pumpkin seeds, cilantro, hemp seeds, lime and as I didn't have any spinach, I used some green lettuce!

It was so tasty.  I'll be using this recipe in my Food as Medicine classes next week, so will share it with you after that.

The flatbread is good as a dipping bread too - I can see this being a popular repeat recipe, at least in this household!  Wonder what I'll use as topping next time????
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chia Rhubarb Ginger Muffin Tops

Rhubarb is one of my favorite fruits  vegetables. Yes, it is officially a vegetable, but  I still think of it as a fruit.  I've been looking for it for the past month, but it seems later than I remember this year. Anyhow - I found some this week and so had to make something with it!

I made some chia rhubarb and ginger muffin tops.  Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free.  The chia seeds add some great omega-3 fats to the muffin too.  You'll be seeing more chia, flax and hemp recipes and posts here, as my Food as Medicine classes next week are all about essential fatty acids.

I made these gluten free, using a GF oat flour, but you could easily substitute for a whole grain flour with gluten, such as spelt or wheat or.....  They will probably rise a little more with a flour with gluten too, so if you try them, send me a photo.

Here is the recipe: Chia Rhubarb Ginger Muffin Tops

3 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups GF oat flour (or whole grain flour)
1/2 cup GF rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup coconut nectar
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup finely chopped rhubarb (approx 2 - 3 stalks)
1/3 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
Optional - seeds or nuts or oats to sprinkle for topping

  1. Mix the chia seeds with the water in a jug and set aside while you prepare all the other ingredients
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with liners or spray with coconut oil spray
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and spices and mix.
  4. In a smaller separate bowl, combine the oil, coconut nectar, orange juice and vanilla extract.  Add the thickened chia seed mix and whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the rhubarb and raisins and stir thoroughly.
  6. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups. If using, sprinkle the topping on each muffin. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until springy to the touch.  Cool.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nutmeg and Cinnamon coffee

I'm the speaker at a luncheon this week in Kenwood.  My topic is "spicing up your life". I will be talking about how spices are a great way adding flavor to your foods, are a good alternative to salt, and that they bring many health benefits too.

You may have read my previous posts about using spices in drinks such as golden milk, and chai tea - without the tea, and chai hot today I tried spices in my coffee.

Now, I don't like flavored coffees. They are very popular in the UK, with coffee flavors such as:

  • amaretto coffee
  • chocolate truffle coffee
  • toffee cappuccino coffee
  • hazelnut coffee (my dad's new favorite)
  • irish cream coffee
  • chocolate caramel coffee
  • maple syrup walnut coffee
  • sticky toffee coffee
  • chocolate cherry coffee
  • chocolate chip cookie coffee
  • caribbean rum coffee
  • Christmas pudding coffee
  • creme brulee coffee
  • malt whiskey coffee
  • mocha orange coffee
  • pecan pie coffee
  • rum baba coffee
To me, they just don't sound like coffee!  They all sound terribly sweet and sickly! Ugh - just the idea is pretty repulsive!!!  I want coffee to taste like coffee....

So it was with this in mind that I gingerly tried the idea of adding spices to my coffee.  I put enough decaf coffee in for four cups and to that added 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg (both ground) to the coffee grinds.

The result still tastes like coffee!  The spices are quite mild - so there is room for more....I think next time I might add cloves as well.  And surprisingly enough,  I enjoyed it.

It's another way for us to vary what we drink, and add some nourishing spices to our life.  Spices also seems to make a drink feel more like food - its  more satiating and I feel like I've eaten something.

So are you a flavoured coffee drinker? What is your favorite flavor?

PS Don't you just love my new orange coffee maker!  With it's little cup warmer on top too :-D
Friday, April 12, 2013

Mustard pomegranate coleslaw

I make a big bowl of coleslaw at least once a week.  It's a great way to enjoy cabbage - a cruciferous vegetable and an easy way to add whatever else you have in the fridge.

Today, I made a different style of dressing for it - a mustard dressing.  It gives it a "meaty" sort of flavor. I always think the taste of mustard is suggestive of meat.  When I make my lentil pate, it always tastes like it isn't vegan, because of the mustard.

I have a few staples in my coleslaw recipe and these are:
cabbage (!), shredded
carrots, grated
raisins or sultanas - I love the sweetness of the fruit in there
black cumin seeds - for their immune boosting power

Today I also added:
pomegranate seeds - yes, you can still buy fresh ones at Trader Joes
sun dried tomatoes - my new favorite brand

The dressing was made from:
1 tablespoon yacon syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

I often also add turmeric to the mix, but my hubby doesn't like it looking quite so yellow, so I held off today so maybe he will have some too! Fresh mint is a great addition too....

It's a great snack, side dish, salad....and lasts a few days in the fridge.  Unlike most coleslaws, it isn't made with mayonnaise or heavy in fat or dairy products.

What are your staples in coleslaw?
Thursday, April 11, 2013

Two Ingredient Nutella Ice Cream

The recipe we used my homemade nutella for in our recent dairy-alternative class was to make Nutella ice cream.  There are only two ingredients - nutella and a banana.

It is a version of frozen banana vegan ice cream - that is creamy and delicious and with the nutella, you wouldn't even think of having dairy ice cream again.

Here's how to make it:

Ingredients - for 1 serving.
1 banana
1 tablespoon Nutella - preferably homemade

Slice the banana and freeze overnight.  Put the banana in a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth. You will probably have to scrape down the sides of the machine a few times, but keep going. It will take a couple of minutes and suddenly, the "ice cream" will come together. Add the nutella and blend again.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

If you haven't had frozen banana "ice cream" before you'll be amazed at the creaminess of it.  It is very satisfying and so quick to make. The consistency of soft serve ice cream. Obviously you can add whatever you like to the banana if for some reason, nutella isn't you thing.... from other frozen fruit to spices to nut butters to ......

Give it a try and you'll be converted to the ultimate healthy ice cream - with no cream, nor refined sugar.

Instead you get fiber from the banana, plus phytonutrients, minerals and vitamins.  I'm going to make this for my ice-cream loving dad when I go back to England next month!  Yes, he's a vanilla ice cream man, but we'll see!
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Homemade Nutella - Hazelnut cocoa spread

Hot on the heels of the latest news this week about 5 tons of Nutella being stolen in Germany - a heist worth $20,710, I made my own last week...but now I think it may not be safe in the kitchen cupboard....Maybe I need to open a safety deposit box to protect it.....

If you give this a go - which you should, as it is so delicious - be sure to keep it in a safe place!!!!!!!

And I hope blogging about a healthy hazelnut cocoa spread recipe isn't considered stealing from Nutella either...but while their recipe has sugar as the first ingredient, plus milk, and palm oil, I think this version is a lot easier on the body.

A few weeks ago you may recall that I made some hazelnut butter...just because I had a few hazelnuts left over. And it got me thinking.......I haven't had Nutella in years.... My biggest Nutella memories come from a trip to Paris many years ago when all I wanted to eat was the Nutella and banana crepes they sold at street vendors.  My husband says he won't ever take me back to Paris again as I won't want to enjoy the fancy restaurants, I'll just want the crepes!

But maybe making my own nutella - a much healthier version - will get me past that and I will get to go to Paris again one day (never mind that the crepes have gluten in so I couldn't eat them now anyhow!).

The recipe was based on one from Chocolate covered Katie. CCK is amazing.  She has just incredible recipes. Here's what I did:

1 cup roasted hazelnuts
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup raw cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut nectar
1/4 cup homemade cashew milk or non diary milk of your choice

If your hazelnuts aren't already roasted, roast them for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Rub them in a tea towel to get most of the skins off.

Blend the nuts in a Vitamix or food processor until they turn into hazelnut butter.  You may need to scrape down the sides as you do this.  Add the remaining ingredients and blend again until smooth.

Enjoy!  We used it in our dairy alternative class for a recipe and it was a hit with everyone! I'll share that recipe later in the week.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hot chocolate chai

I made some more tea-free chai this week and have been enjoying it with warm homemade cashew milk, but today I wanted a little change. And so I made hot chocolate chai.

Basically, raw cacao powder plus the infused chai spices. No sweetener, no milk neither dairy nor non-dairy.  I'm drinking it as I type and its like music, with such a harmony of spices.

I've never been one for hot chocolate drinks - mainly because I don't like hot milky, creamy things - so this suits me fine.  You could always add some non-dairy milk to this however to suit your taste.

But the spices come together so nicely.  There isn't any that is trying to push its way to the front. It really is perfect harmony.

It's not that cloying sweet chocolatey taste either.  I'm finding it very satisfying!

Chai spices infusing
Here is the chai recipe from a previous blog post.  I added 1 tablespoon of cacao powder to 8 ounces of chai spice mix.

Have you tried chocolate chai before?  I remember my first ever experience of chai was a chai chocolate fudge I made!  It's taken me all this time to get back to combining chocolate with chai!.

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