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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!

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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!

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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…
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Hedgehogs

Bonjour, mes amis! My recent absence was due at first to a singing competition and then to the awful, evil flu. I’m better now and ready to blog again -LUCKY YOU, YAY!!

Having literally eaten my body weight six times over in the last two weeks to stay alive, I have now taken up the challenge of losing 7 – 10lbs before Christmas. (I’ve said it on Twitter now, so it has to happen.) This does mean that my baking will take a step back for a while and the cooking will take a step up.
HOWEVER! I made this recipe for one of my trips to Dublin two weeks ago and it is so fast and SO EASY and reminds me of being a little person. My sister used to make a variation of this and we always called them ‘hedgehogs.”
Hedgehogs:
4 oz butter (at room temperature)
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz self raising flour
For the top:
150g raspberry jam, heated until runny
100g desiccated coconut
 
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius (170 fan)/ 350 Fahrenheit / Gas 4

1: CREAM THE BUTTER AND SUGAR!

2: Add the egg, vanilla and flour a little at a time, mixing as you go until all ingredients have been used.

3:  Divide the mixture between 12 prepared lined bun cases.

4: Bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
5: Lightly toast the coconut on a baking tray under a grill or in a frying pan until lightly golden.
6: Spread the jam on top of each cake and dip into the toasted coconut until coated.
EAT THEM.
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Autumnal Apple Tart

My attitude to apple tart is a bit ‘rough n’ ready.’ I firmly believe that you should just go with your instincts on this. Here’s a rough recipe for my favourite Autumnal twist on apple tart. I used nine apples that varied in size. If you make too much filling for your tart, the left over apple sauce is delicious in steaming porridge on a cold Autumn morning.

In Ireland and the UK we like to use a sharper variety of apple for baking with, commonly called ‘cooking apples.’ For this reason it’s necessary to sweeten them – just make sure you taste your filling as you go along as some apples are more tart than others, and personal preference plays a big part in apple tart. 🙂

INGREDIENTS:
. 6 med-large cooking apples (approx)
. 50g sultanas (or raisins/dried cranberries)
. 1.5 tsps cinnamon
. 4tbsps honey (approx)
                                                          . 30g walnut pieces
                                                         . 20g sunflower seeds
                                                          . shortcrust pastry
1: Peel and chop your apples into a pan, discarding the cores and skins. Allow enough room for them to expand.
2: Add in the sultanas  and cinnamon. Drizzle over enough honey to cover the tops of the peeled apples.
3: Add 2 tbsps cold water and turn on to a gentle heat for 15- 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until most of the apples have broken down into the sauce.
4: Test for sweetness (be careful not to burn your mouth!) and add more honey if it needs it.
5: Tip the sauce into a pie plate lined with shortcrust pastry. Sprinkle over the walnuts and sunflower seeds before covering with more pastry. Brush with a beaten egg, pierce the lid.
6: Brush with a beaten egg, pierce the lid and bake for 20-30minutes at 180°C/350°F/fan assist 170°C until the pastry is golden brown and firm.
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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.)

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The Pumpkin Pie

Yes! Finally, the pumpkins are here! Aren’t they beautiful? I’ve literally spent the entire day making various dishes with these lovelies. It  sometimes bothers me that Irish people don’t really use pumpkins for anything other than jack-o-lanterns.  I have noticed a record number of said seasonal decorations all over Cork city, though, and they are gorgeous!I’ve never been one to sit around lamenting and not doing anything so here is my pumpkin pie experience! I’ve put together a ‘How To’ style tutorial to show you what to do with your pumpkin when it’s all big and orange and staring at you questioningly. The first step to any pumpkin recipe is to first purée the pumpkin. Once it’s puréed, you can freeze it or use it for various recipes.

1. Slice your pumpkin in half, and then into slices. Scoop out the innard-goop and put it into a bowl. You can rinse them later and bake the seeds if you want to use every part of the pumpkin. The stringy bits are great for compost!
2. Place the pieces (skin intact!) into a steamer and steam for approximately 20 minutes until soft. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool before peeling. Do NOT try to peel the slices while they’re hot! You WILL burn yourself.

3. Allow the skinless pumpkin chunks to drain in a colander for 10 minutes to get rid of excess juice. Sometimes this isn’t necessary, if you feel your pumpkin isn’t very watery, you can skip this step!

 4. Whizz up the pumpkin with a hand blender, or mash with a potato masher until it’s a thick purée. Now you have your base ingredient, ready to use! If you have some left over, you can freeze it in a lunchbox or in small amount in freezer bags.

PUMPKIN PIE!

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 0.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.5 tsp salt (optional)
  • 4 large, free range eggs
  • 3 cups pumpkin purée
  • 18 floz evaporated milk 

1. Mix all ingredients together with a hand mixer. It will be a very wet mixture.

2. Line a pie dish with short crust pastry. I find that this recipe makes enough for at least one extra pie, so have some extra pastry to hand, just in case!

3. Pour in the pie-filling, not filling the dish more than 3/4 full, as the mixture will rise! Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for the first 15 minutes.

4. Turn down the heat to 165 degrees Celsius and bake for a further 45 – 60 minutes, until a knife comes out clean from the centre.

When it is done, take it out and EAT IT UP, YUM YUM! 🙂

I hope you try this recipe! I originally found it online somewhere about two years ago and I’ve stuck with it. It’s really delicious! I have a lovely recipe for pumpkin and spinach lasagne which I’ll post soon. Let me know what you think! x