1

Healthy Days: Spinach and Berry Breakfast Smoothie

This has been a back-to-work week with me settling into a lovely relaxed schedule of teaching. Really, it’s been a shock to the system to not be doing a full time conservatory performance degree as well as working. So I’ve been continuing to love cooking and grocery shopping is no longer tear-inducing stress! Possibly I should be trying to fill my hours a little more diligently but right now from the *health* point of view, this is amazing.

Yesterday was the first day that I felt ‘I NEED CAKE!’ It has since transpired that I’m fight all the back-to-school bugs that come into my music room! So at least there’s a reason that I’m craving sugary food. I admit that I ate a brownie yesterday and a scone today, but now that I’ve figured out my craving, I’m going to make some soup and drink a ton of warm honey and lemon!

Carrot and Lentil Soup

Carrot and Lentil Soup I made for dinner on Thursday! Served with steamed purple sprouting broccoli and garlic.

On Thursday I has such an amazing food day! Attending the Mahon Point farmer’s market I swerved my usual salad stall and tried the offering of My Goodness, Cork’s raw vegan foodies. For €6.50 I had just the BEST lunch I’ve had in ages! Raw seed crackers, pickled daikon radish, sundried tomato and coriander pesto flavoured seed patés, bean sprouts, carrot salad, a seed burger and mixed green leaves all with a fresh apple cider vinegar-based dressing. It was beautiful and kept me munching for ages! I will definitely be having this again! Definitely satisfying. 🙂

Vegan Raw Mezze Plate by My Goodness, Cork

              Vegan Raw Mezze Plate by My Goodness 

In the last few days I made a load of Deliciously Ella’s superfood bread and flavoured it with some lovely autumnal cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Another highlight of the last few days was this delicious breakfast smoothie:

 

Blackberry - Spinach Smoothie

A great way to use up the autumn harvest of blackberries!

Spinach and Berry Breakfast Smoothie
-2 handfuls of blackberries
-2 handfuls of spinach
-2 heaped tbsp soya yoghurt
-1 tbsp milled flaxseed
-a few strawberries
-water

Berry-Spinach Smoothie

Useful way to use up blackberries!

2

Healthy Days: Autumn Blackberry-Apple Sponge Pudding

Sometimes you’re just hungry, aren’t you. Not just hungry but, like, HUUNNGGRRYYY. And those are the times when you (I) start rifling through the cupboards and start eating baking ingredients. So, because it’s day 6 of #100healthydays i decided to pre-empt this unfortunate reflex by having a hearty lunch. I adapted this recipe from the BBC Food website which you can find here. Instead of the 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil I used 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and I added Ballymaloe Jalapeno Pepper Relish.

Vegan Falafel Recipe

Fresh coriander and chili pepper from the garden!

 

vegan burger

The finished product!

I ate two of these gorgeous burgers for lunch and I’m so glad I did because I wound up not having a chance to eat again for another 7 hours. My body is not use to such famine! The protein and fiber in the chickpeas must have really done the trick. This recipe is definitely a keeper and it barely cost anything! The coriander and fresh chili I used came from my garden, the cherry tomatoes and organic cucumber were ends of boxes and the brown pittas were on the cusp of expiry (tomorrow is shopping day.) I had used dried chickpeas, too, so they were extra-thrifty!

After a salmon and vegetable dinner, I prepared a blackberry apple sponge pudding which was possibly the most delicious thing I have ever created. I used dark muscovado sugar which gave it the most incredible deep, rich caramel-apple flavour!


Autumn Blackberry-Apple Sponge Pudding

Autumn dessert

The taste of autumn.

Filling:
– 5 or 6 big cooking apples, peeled and sliced
– Two handfuls of blackberries
– 1 tablespoon of honey
– 2 tablespoons of dried fruit
– 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
For the sponge:
– 4 oz butter/vegan margarine 
– 4 oz dark muscovado sugar
– 1 egg of 1 flax egg
– 6 oz self raising flour

Method:
Keeping the blackberries aside, combine the rest of the filling ingredients in a pan and stew on a gentle heat until the apples soften adding a little water to stop burning if necessary. When the ingredients have softened transfer to an ovenproof dish and stir in the blackberries.

In a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg and a dash of your choice of milk and beat until combined, adding a spoon of flour if necessary to prevent curdling. Finally, add the rest of the flour and mix until smooth, being careful not to over beat the batter.

Cover the filling with the sponge batter and spread carefully over the top. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes or until the sponge is cooked through.

Enjoy!

yummy dessert

It didn’t last too long in my house…

Right, so that’s my food diary apart from porridge with banana and pb! I also went for a 45 minute walk and saw some nice greenery. 🙂

fitness

Brisk wood walk!

 

river

Enjoyed a river view on my outing!

1

Healthy Days – Rhubarb challenge!

It’s day 2 of the 100 Healthy Days and I feel it went ok today! I mean, in terms of food I ate a little more than yesterday but i’m still loving having time to cook (see food diary below!)

Today I had to figure out how to use up a bunch of rhubarb while still making healthy choices. The problem being that generally rhubarb needs a ton of sugar to make it palatable. I decided to use strawberries and cinnamon to sweeten the filling and to drastically reduce the sugar in the topping. 


Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble

Low-sugar rhubarb-strawberry crumble.

Homemade and warm from the oven – and lower in sugar!

Filling:
– 1 bunch rhubarb, washed and chopped
– 1 punnet strawberries, washed and hulled
– half a teaspoon of cinnamon
– 1 tsp honey (optional)
Topping:
– 100g/ 3½oz plain flour
-75g/ 2½oz butter/vegan butter
-50g/ 2oz rolled oats
– 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar

Simply stew the filling ingredients together until the fruit has softened. Transfer this filling to an ovenproof dish.

Blitz the flour, butter and sugar together until breadcrumb-like in appearance. Stir in the oats. 

Cover the filling with this topping and bake for approximately 30 minutes at 180C.


I’ve been thinking a bit about the other elements to this project that I need to tackle. For one thing, I need to learn to turn out the light early and just go to sleep! No Tumblr or Facebook last thing at night. I think being responsible at bedtime will be very important for gaining more energy, fighting off winter bugs and keeping my appetite under control! 

Aside from that, I’ve booked in with an osteopath for the pains in my neck, side and knee that have been plaguing me for a while (…9 months…) I’m looking forward to getting it dealt with! 

Today met with my friend Áine for lunch/coffee in town. I decided to eat at home and just have a juice and a coffee when out to try to optimise my healthy eating potential!

Food diary:
-porridge with cinnamon peanut butter and banana
-Homemade roast vegetable soup, two slices of seeded rye toast.
-Beetroot, raspberry and orange juice and a skinny cappuccino. Brazil nuts.
-Veggie spanish omlette with rhubarb and strawberry crumble with a tablespoon of creme fraichefor dessert!

 

Roast Vegetables for Soup

Roasting a selection of vegetables left over from yesterday’s dinner for soup.

Homemade veggie soup

Nothing beats hearty, thick soup on a rainy autumnal day!

1

100 Healthy Days – Mindfulness in every day life

vegan hot chocolate

The best way to enjoy 85% dark chocolate is to drink it! 😉

This morning I saw a post on Facebook about a woman who decided to turn the #100happydays tag into #100healthydays. Ordinarily I look at these people who transform themselves into super-toned fitness enthusiasts and think ‘It’s just not for me.’ This is because I’ve tried the gym thing and unfortunately due to frequent injury I find it impossibly to maintain the necessary consistency. 

On this occasion, however, it wasn’t the super-toned physique that caught my imagination but the idea of the tag. I completed the #100happydays tag on Instagram and, though there were a few days when everything was so horrid that I blatantly had to make something up, I did complete it. It was just one day at a time, and I never knew what the thing was that was going to make you happy, so I had to be on the lookout for it. It made me more mindful throughout the day of how I was feeling, and that can’t be bad!

So why not apply this idea to health? Personally, I know that being more mindful of what I eat and how I take care of myself is really important. I tend to indulge and obsesses over food. After finishing my all-consuming music degree I found that I had to unfollow all the food accounts on Instagram and Pinterest as I just felt overwhelmed. I wanted to make everything and try everything and felt enormous pressure. It may sound silly to someone who has never had the obsessive thing, but it became a bit of a problem! Now I avoid looking at pictures of recipes online, or buying foodie magazines and I feel much less overwhelmed. If I want to look something up, I will happily search, but I try not to let it take over my thoughts too much. 

So here was my first day of #100healthydays! I’m not aiming to be a size 0 at the end, I’m not aiming to be anything! Just more mindful of what I eat and how I move, and proud of the choices I’ve made for my body.

breakfast

Cinnamon to steady blood sugar is great in the morning!

Breakfast is always porridge for me! I just love it! I love using different ingredients for variety but this morning it was pretty basic! Banana to prevent my twitchy eye/leg/arm, cinnamon to keep my blood sugar steady, oats for slow-release carbohydrates and fiber and peanut butter because it is yummy and contains a small amount of protein! 

Rocket Man salad

Chickpeas are full of fiber and keep energy levels steady throughout the day.

At lunchtime I was out and about meeting my friend Orla at the Mahon Point Farmers Market. I love it there! There is so much to look at and so many delicious options! I steered away from the cake and had a salad from the Rocket Man, Cork’s most popular salad bar. This was a chickpea and roast vegetable/ spelt and beetroot salad combo.  There weren’t as many veggies as I would have liked but I was on the move!

Homemade blackberry jam with vegan hot chocolate.

A snack around 4pm keeps me from gnawing my arm off (or stuffing my face with chocolate!)

The 4pm snack is going to be my new best friend. I always get hungry at this time and never realised that I could just plan a snack before dinner. Well, now I know and this is what I had: seeded rye bread with homemade (by me!) blackberry jam and vegan hot chocolate made with 85% dark chocolate, unsweetened almond milk and vanilla extract. Yum.

Vegan white bean and vegetable hash with nutritional yeast.

Rosemary, garlic, nutritional yeast and black pepper made this cannellini bean hash taste so good!

 For dinner I made this recipe for Vegetable White Bean Hash. I added 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, which has added a lot to the flavour. The recipe really needed some more herbs or spices as the recipe was a little bland. The yeast really cheered it up, though! 

So, that was my day apart from a skinny cappuccino!  I’ve tried to take my time with things today. Making dinner, I didn’t want to rush and just appreciated having the time to prepare the vegetables and listen to a podcast while cooking. 

1

Wilton Farmer’s Market – Tasty Goodness. Healthy Things.

If there’s one thing that can be said with certainty it’s that Cork people love good food. It may be tempting to simply brush off farmers markets as a fad, somewhere that only wealthy hipsters can afford to shop but that is no longer the case. A variety of coffee and cake stands, sandwich and pizza stalls mean that you no longer have to worry about feeling obliged to buy a ton of expensive things you didn’t want. 

 

Cork Bread

Local Artisan Bread by Arbutus

Take Wilton Farmer’s Market, for example. Every Tuesday from 10:30am – 2:30pm an array of colourful stalls pop up in the car park of Wilton Shopping Centre. Not only does the market feature locally grown organic vegetable from near Inch in Co. Cork and imported organic fruit and nuts courtesy of Organic Republic but while you mill around you might also grab a handmade marshmallow from Cloud Confectionary or a coffee from local favourite (ok… MY favourite) Badger and Dodo. The market provides a table and chairs for nibblers so that you can take in all the sights, sounds and smells of the other food producers. 

 

Wilton Farmer's Market, Cork

A delightful display of fabulously flavoured marshmallows by Cloud Confectionary!

One of my favourite companies to buy from is Arbutus Bread. Not only does this artisan company produce an impressive range of unusual and traditional freshly baked breads, you will always receive helpful information on how to get the most out of your loaf. This morning I purchased a loaf of Latvian rye bread. The lady behind the sea of bread informed me about the contents of the bread (low in gluten!) but also about the baker who made it and how best to serve and preserve it. Her expert knowledge means that I know which breads are best to freeze and which are best eaten quickly. 

Artisan Marshmallow

My reward for such diligent marketing – a caramel shortbread marshmallow!

As well as the steady favourites of Volcano Wood-Fired Pizza, The Beanie Brownie Company, The Rocket Man Salads, My Goodness raw and vegan foods and The Golden Bean (to name but a few) there is also a guest slot that changes weekly. 

What is really great about farmers’ markets is that it gives you a chance to see what is going on in your area. There are small food companies taking off all around us and these markets give us a unique opportunity to sample things first and support new businesses. After my first visit to Wilton this morning I will definitely be returning, and I do hope that it continues to grow!

0

Carrot and Almond Soup

This is my favourite soup recipe which I’m posting for Laura. It comes from Gillian McKeith’s cookbook “You Are What You Eat,” which, actually, there is no point in buying because it only has about three good recipes in it. Though I must admit that those three recipes are AWESOME!

When ever I eat this soup I always feel like I’m putting something really nutritious into my body. It tastes sweet and the ground almonds give it a lovely creaminess. Gillian does some messing around with herb stalks but I’m inclined to ignore anything fussy like that. It’s also nice to double the recipe and freeze ahead for ease of access to yummy deliciousness. 🙂

Carrot and Almond Soup
Serves 4

  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 6 carrots, trimmed, peeled and sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp wheat-free vegetable bouillon powder (I use a stock cube…)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 100g ground almonds
Method:
1. Place the onions, garlic, carrot and celery in a large saucepan. Add 1.25 litres boiling water and the bouillon powder. Bring to the boil and add the herbs.

2.
Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife.

3.Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Strain, reserving the stock. Blend the vegetables with a hand held blender until smooth.

4.Return the mixture to the pan and add the ground almonds and enough of the reserved stock to make a soup-like consistency.

Reheat, then divide between warmed soup bowls and serve garnished with chopped fresh coriander and parsley.

What I said earlier about freezing was true – I always made double to freeze – but everyone always eats at least two bowls in one sitting so the next time I make it, I’m going to do it when everyone’s out and not tell anyone what I made…
4

Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagne

Yesterday, I showed you how to make pumpkin purée. Now I’m going to share with you a recipe for Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagne I tried out for dinner yesterday. The original recipe comes from a magazine called ‘Healthy Food Guide.‘ (My favourite magazine, so many gorgeous recipes!)Alterations:

Though the original recipe asks for chunks of pumpkin to be lightly fried, I used my purée instead. I also used adult spinach instead of baby spinach, removing the stalks and wilting it before adding the pumpkin. The recipe also called for 350g of fresh lasagne but I used dried and I only needed five sheets! Very low in carbohydrates. 🙂 (Also low in fat, salts and saturates as well as high in calcium and iron.) How many sheets of pasta you need will depend on the size and shape of your oven proof dish.

 

PUMPKIN AND SPINACH LASAGNE
Serves 4


Ingredients:

  • Cooking oil spray.
  • 500g pumpkin purée
  • 250g spinach, heavy stalks cut off
  • 2 x 400g cans of tomatoes with herbs
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 250g ricotta
  • 250g low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 30g parmesan, grated
  • 5-7 sheets of dried lasagna
     

     


1. Preheat oven to 200°C/ fan 18O°C/gas 6.

2. Spray a frying pan a few times with the cooking oil. Add the spinach, a third at a time and wilt over a low heat, stirring frequently.

3. Add the pumpkin, garlic and tins of tomatoes to the spinach and cook over a medium heat for five minutes.

4. Add the ricotta, cottage cheese, two thirds of the parmesan and dried herbs together and blend in a food processor or with a handheld blender until it makes a smooth paste.

 5. Pour one third of the tomato into an ovenproof dish. Add a layer of lasagne, followed by more tomato sauce and a layer of the cheesy sauce.* Repeat these layers until the ingredients are used up and finish with the cheese sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and bake for 30 – 40 minutes.

*(The cheese sauce can be tough to spread, I found. Try using a spatula.)