Coconut Chia Pudding – With Winter Spiced Berries

Coconut Chia Pudding – With Winter Spiced Berries

This recipe has sat in the draft section for some time. Turns out posting it now, is good timing still, because it could easily work as a nutritious addition to your menu over the holiday season.

You may have heard of chia puddings by now. You may even be a big fan of them. If you haven’t you are missing out of one of the easiest, nutritious snack/dessert /breakfast ever! I remember a few years ago when these tiny little seeds appeared on the shelves in the health stores and no one had really heard of them, let alone knew what to do with them… These days they are big news! Turns out they are a good source of plant based omega 3 essential fats. They are also high in fibre, potassium, zinc, calcium and phosphorus.

The seeds come from a desert plant, Salvia Hispanica, grown in Mexico and these tiny super seeds apparently featured on the menu of the famous Aztec warriors. In fact the word “Chia” supposedly means strength. When they first appeared this side of the world one of the many marketing claims was how it could help with weight loss.  This may be true in some sense, but of course it’s highly unlikely that it would help anyone shed pounds all on its own. Weight loss is a lot more complex than just take one magic substance, unfortunately and  the sooner we stop buying in to that concept the better (But that’s a topic for another day…)

I think in those early days, no one really had any clue how to eat them or how to make them taste nice. Thing is they swell a lot in any liquid you leave them in, and when they do, turns out they don’t look all that appetizing… The very first time I tried chia seeds it was a tsp of seeds soaked in plain water, just swallowed down. Not the most exciting thing I’ve ever eaten to be honest. Obviously times has moved on – enter Chia Pudding! I’m not sure who originally came up with the bright idea of serving the little guys this way but let’s just say it’s genius! Their ability to gel makes for a nice consistency and when you eat them in this way they can actually help with constipation rather than hinder it.

Plant based chia puddingStraightforward Nutrition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have tried lots of different types of chia puddings at this stage but using a good quality full fat coconut milk is by far my favourite. It even reminds me a little of the Christmas dessert we have back home, rice pudding, well actually more like the cold version of rice pudding; Ris á la Malta.

Here you have a slightly healthier version made with just two ingredients: Chia Seeds and Coconut Milk. I’ve chosen to top this pudding with some winter spiced berries. Here I used the blackberries we picked back in the autumn. Grateful for the abundance back then and for the freezer now! If you, like me, live in the Northern Hemisphere where berries are not in season, then use frozen ones. I’d imagine blackcurrants or blueberries could work to. And if you live some where were it’s berry season, well then make the most of it and use fresh ones!

Coconut Chia Pudding – With Winter Spiced Berries

Serves 2

For the chia pudding:

200 ml full fat coconut milk – organic if possible

2 tbsp chia seeds (whole seeds)

For the berry compote:

1 cup blackberries – fresh or frozen

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

1-2 star anise (depending on size of the star)

1 tbsp pure maple syrup

To make the pudding; mix coconut milk and chia seeds together in a small bowl. Make sure it is well mixed together and stir a few more times over the next five min, to remove any lumps, as the seeds start to absorb the liquid. Then move to the fridge and let it set over a few hours.

To make the berry compote; place the frozen (or fresh) berries in a small sauce pan. Add in maple syrup, ground cinnamon. Gently toss the berries in the maple syrup and spices until evenly coated. Add in the star anise. Bring it slowly to a simmer and let it simmer away for about 10 min until fruit is soft and the compote is fragrant.

Serve the chia pudding in small bowls with topped with the warm spiced berry compote.

N.B This dessert (or even breakfast!) is very filling and not very sweet. You can omit the maple syrup if you are looking for an even lower carbohydrate load.

blackberries from the autumncoconut chia pudding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. I hope you don’t mind me throwing in a picture from the beautiful autumn we had. Worth a reminder of brighter days to come as the longest day of the year fast approaches.

 

Beetroot & Carrot Salad with a Ginger dressing (Raw)

Beetroot & Carrot Salad with a Ginger dressing (Raw)

Before the summer is well and truly over, I would like to share this colourful raw salad with you. I’d love if I could literally share it with you, but if not I’ll give you the recipe at least, so you can easily throw it together at home! Beetroot and carrots are in prime season and if you are one of those GIY people who I admire, chances are you can pull most of these ingredients straight from the ground of your back yard!

This simple salad came together as an experiment a few years ago when I was cooking with a couple of friends and we decided to try making a chocolate beetroot cake for the first time. The cake came out well. (I used someone else’s recipe which made a successful outcome more likely) We were left with lots of shredded beetroot and had to come up with another plan to use it. After a few poor years I have adopted the basic mantra of “waste not  -want not” and now hate food waste. So what can you do with some raw shredded beetroot? Well give it some raw shredded carrot as a companion, make a simple dressing of a few base ingredients. Then proceed to pull a few leaves of mint from your pot and voilá, a super food salad is born!

 

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Cooking with in season ingredients ensures you’ll get maximum nutrition for your money as well as the freshest ones too. Naturally cooking in season makes it easier to buy local because this is what your small organic farmer is pulling out of the ground right now. Or it is what you can find in your own vegetable garden / allotment.

Cooking and eating this way may take some getting use to, as you might have to step out of your current comfort zone. Perhaps you need to try some new ingredients and learn some more recipes. Another thing I have found over the past year or so is that I’m so much more aware of what is in season and that my body seem to crave different types of food at different types of the year. Anyone else also experiencing that? This summer, with this lovely warm weather we’ve had, has seen me eating lots of raw foods. Probably more than I normally would. It seems to be reflected here on the blog too, judging from the posts of the past few months…

So before it’s time to wrap up for the coming months I would like to give you just another raw food recipe.

 

Straighforward Nutrition

When we think about superfoods we often think of exotic, but now readily available foods like chia seeds, goji berries and raw cacao. Fact is, it cannot be overemphasized how much of a superfood beetroot is. I wrote about it here and here. Carrots are famous for their high content of betacarotene, a precursore to vitamin A, a vitamin really important for good eye health. As well as betacarotene, carrots are a good source of lutein and lycopene. Both good cancer fighting properties. In nutritional therapy we look at food not just as basic fuel but also as medicine. So here you have a seriously health promoting simple raw summer / autumn salad. No excuses needed.

The fact that both vegetables are served raw makes for maximum nutritional value. Just make sure your veggies are as fresh as possible. Most people don’t eat enough raw vegetables. Green smoothies or vegetable juices makes it easier to increase intake of raw foods, but sometimes you want something with a bit of a crunch and that’s when this salad deserves a prime place on the menu. It will work really well with meat too if that’s what takes your fancy. Personally I love it with white fish.

P.S I have taste tested this one on lots of people, on some of my cooking demos and even the most avid beetroot fans have been converted 🙂 It seems like the ginger-lemon dressing somehow neutralises the earthiness of the beetroot, which many people so dislike.

 

Beetroot & Carrot Salad with a Ginger Dressing

Serves 2 generously

Salad:

2 medium sized carrots, washed & peeled

1 large or 2 small beetroots, washed & peeled

Dressing:

3 tbsp good quality cold pressed olive oil

1/2 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1/2 organic lemon

1/2- 1 inch ginger, peeled and finely grated – adjust amount according to how much “kick” you want

A pinch of Himalayan pink salt – to season

A few fresh mint leaves, torn

Grate the carrot and beetroot finely. There are a few ways to do this. If you have a food processor and don’t mind a little extra washing, use it. I used my julienne slicer here. It is a really handy tool except for the fact that I almost always end up rubbing a poor unfortunate finger as well… If you can find a julienne peeler which looks almost like a normal peeler, then go for that one instead. Of course if you have impeccable knife skills, then go ahead and cut your own julienne sticks by all means. It’s just beyond the scope of my own skills.

In a small bowl mix together olive oil, lemon juice and ginger until smooth. Add a drop of water if you find it too thick. Season to taste with some pink salt. Place your finely grated carrot and beetroot in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing. Toss the whole thing gently with your hands. Add a few torn mint leaves to the mix.

This salad will work really well as a side to some grilled white fish or as part of a larger buffet. Or as a snack with a few toasted seeds on top. If you are a little odd like me!

 

straightforward nutritionRaw salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Smoothie Bowl + Sweden Pictures

Purple Smoothie Bowl + Sweden Pictures

Holidays are over and it’s time to get back to normality… If you have kids I am guessing you are in the midst of preparing for the return to school. Even though it is years (many years in fact) since I went to school, this time of year always reminds me of just that. The sense of that first light chill in the air, the sweet smell of grain ready for harvest and just the beginning of a hint of red on the leaves. Then you know that change is in the air and that we are slowly moving towards darker times. Summer is drawing to a close… Both with a little sadness, yet with a light exciting anticipation of what may lay ahead.

I came back from my long awaited holidays earlier this week. And boy am I feeling the change in the air! When you live abroad, “going home” is almost a necessity. Kind of a given way to spend some of your hard earned time off. This is my 13th year abroad and every summer I return faithfully to my roots. Luckily I have a loving home to return to every year and since my beloved mother lives in one of the most beautiful places on earth it makes the endeavor an even sweeter one. About ten years ago she moved to the most southernly area of Sweden, Österlen. It is so close to the sea and one of those special places with special light.

This area of Sweden has been home to painters and artists for centuries. If you have ever visited, it is obvious why. You will find art galleries, vintage stores and artisan cafés dotted all over the place. This is not where I grew up though. My “real home” is smack bang in the middle of Skåne, with a slightly different landscape. Different but still beautiful. My dad and his family come from this particular countryside and my darling brother is set to carry on the tradition, having built his house here and having started his own family earlier this year.

This post is slightly different to my usual ones as I would like to share some pictures I took whilst I was home, in Sweden. I sincerely hope you won’t mind. If you have never visited this corner of the earth, hopefully a few images will inspire you to do so!

Kivik, Österlen

Apple tree, KivikApple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The little town of Kivik, located right on the coast is world famous for all things apple. You will find an almost unimaginable amount of rows up on rows of apple trees growing in the area. Imagine the beauty of Spring there! All those flowers…

Most of the coastline is scattered with small sandy beaches and the Baltic can be very warm with water temperatures reaching the mid 20s if the summer is a hot one. I manged just one dip while I was home but I doubt it was still mid 20s kinda warm. It didn’t really feel like it was! It truly is a summer paradise around here and judging from the amount of tourists still around, a lot of people seem to think so. The area is actually equally beautiful in the winter, but much much colder so hardly any visitors to be seen anywhere then. I’m sure the locals don’t mind the peace and quiet over the winter months, though. They must be worn out after the summer.

When I first moved overseas, there was a whole heap of foods and dishes I missed. Since then, my dietary habits have changed, a lot. Much for the better, I suppose. So now I miss cooking when I’m away instead. There are still a few foods which find their way back to Ireland every time though. Things like REAL traditional Swedish rye crispbread and “Kalles Kaviar”, a caviar in a tube. Might sound rather awful to some… But not if you are a true Swede 😉 Anyone with me? Have you tried it?

The recipe here is a delicious purple smoothie bowl made with blackcurrants foraged from my mother’s tiny little kitchen garden. I simply adore blackcurrants, so enjoyed the opportunity to pick them straight from the bush as oppose to a freezer bag for a change. Blackcurrants are a true super food which we, who live in the northerly latitudes can enjoy locally. It has as much vitamin C as goji berries so a perfect berry to store for the winter months to stave off any colds and flu bugs. When I was in my late teens and still lived in Sweden I had never even heard of a dairy free smoothie bowl, like this recipe. Fast forward ten years or so and they have become a weekly staple. How things change, hey?

 

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Smoothie bowls are so handy when you are looking for something which resemble that bowl of yoghurt with cereal you used to eat before you had to clean up your act. When I finally realised that my body felt so much better without dairy and had to give up my beloved natural yoghurt, having my smoothie in a bowl at times has made me feel a little less deprived. Now I can top it with with crunchy seeds or homemade granola just like I used to when I was 12! The fact that this kind of breakfast bowl will give you less sugar and more nutrition than traditional ones, makes it even more worthwhile.

The idea of using coconut milk comes from a summer holiday spent in Barcelona a few years ago. ( I still went “home” though, just had to cut it a little shorter than normal, that year. ) If you have ever visited the amazing food market there with all the gorgeous fresh fruit smoothies, you’ll know what I’m on about… For a smoothie to be eaten out of a bowl, you need a slightly thicker consistency than normal so go easy on the liquid. Otherwise all your lovely toppings will sink like stones to the bottom. No hope of any pretty styling then 😉

Purple Smoothie Bowl

Serves 1

100 ml coconut milk – fresh or use a good quality full fat coconut milk with little or no additives, organic if possible

1/4 cup fresh or frozen blackcurrant

1 banana

Rinse and drain the berries if using freshly picked ones. Place berries, coconut milk and banana in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately in a bowl and top with your favourite muesli, granola or toasted seeds. Add more berries if you so wish.

I like the rather tart taste of the berries so for me the banana is enough to sweeten. You can of course add a little honey or maple syrup if you find it too tart. However I would recommend not to, if you wish to keep your sugar intake low.

 

Straightforward Nutrition weight lossStraightforward Nutrition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you wish to try another smoothie with coconut milk, check out this recipe which I made for this site a little while back. A seriously refreshing summer drink. If you can get hold of some water melon and strawberries, it’s worth trying. Promise.

Well, are you ready for autumn now? I don’t know if I can truly say I am. It will be here whether we want it or not though, so we might just embrace it… But until it is inevitable, I for one will savour what’s left of the summer and the lovely memories of the past few weeks spent with old friends and family. Grounding and reconnecting with my roots. How about you?

 

smoothie bowlFamilyHome is where the heart lies

 

 

 

Green Smoothie for Beginners – Part 1

Green Smoothie for Beginners – Part 1

Are you part of the Green Smoothie Club? If smoothies are a very recent addition to your daily menu, making it a green one may still feel a little daunting. Or if having liquidized greens still seems a little ‘too out there’ for you, yet you are curious about trying out one – then this recipe is for you.

The Green Smoothie for Beginners is the first part in my upcoming smoothie series. I have a couple more refreshing raw drinks in the pipeline for you while the season is still primed for indulging in raw foods. Smoothies, particularly green ones is such a simple step to increase the amount of raw food in your daily diet, and your intake of vegetables over all.

I don’t own a fancy blender like a Nutri-bullet or a Vitamix (I wish I did though…). The basic blender I had, which had a good glass jug I broke by putting something too hot in it. Kitchen mishaps… So these days I’m back to using my trusted hand blender (actually I wore one out and had to replace it as I couldn’t do with out!) I’m not one for (too many) fancy kitchen gadgets but my hand blender is one gadget I certainly couldn’t live without. I’ve even taken it on holiday with me. How sad it that?

Ever since I broke my blender jug, green smoothies has been off my menu, as I believed my little hand blender would not be strong enough to blend the green leaves. The key to a really good green smoothie is to make sure that the leaves are really well chopped up. You simply won’t have that fabulous of an experience if you have to chomp through chunks of leaves. I mean, it’s called smoothie for a reason. Right? Anyhow, we have been getting some great fresh produce here lately which included both spinach and the utterly beautiful rainbow chard. So I though, let’s put the hand blender to the test and see if it is possible to make some kind of green smooth(ie) goodness with it.

Success! Here you are. My basic green smoothie recipe for beginners, using only a hand blender. No excuses now, not to try out these greenies.

 

Straightforward Nutrition Healthy green smoothie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the smoothies I make includes two of my favourite ingredients, banana and avocado. Both of them add a lovely creaminess to any smoothie and the healthy fat from the avocado helps to counteract any possible blood sugar spike from the fruit. Having smoothies as oppose to juices means you will get all the fibre from the fresh produce too.

 

Green Smoothie For Beginners

Serves 1

1/2 an avocado

1 small banana or 1/2 of a big one, peeled & chopped

a fist of soft green mild-tasting leaves, like chard or spinach – washed

1 kiwi, peeled & roughly chopped

a squeeze of lime – optional

200ml of filtered water or plant milk of choice

Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and add together with the rest of the ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth. Pour your smoothie into a glass. Top with some Chia seeds, bee pollen or any other fancy super food you can think of. Or do what I do when not styling for a photo shoot – have it straight from the container…

Congrats! You are now well on your way to a healthier, more wholesome lifestyle. Don’t worry if your tastebuds protest a little at first. Practice makes perfect.

 

Healthy lifestyle nutrition

Watermelon & Feta Salad with Mint

Watermelon & Feta Salad with Mint

This recipe is a really simple refreshing salad. Good on its own or as part of a BBQ. Watermelon makes the perfect summer food as it has a really high water content and is naturally sweet so pretty compelling to eat. It is certainly a food I crave once the temperatures rises above twenty. Not that it is a common occurrence in this country though… And it is certainly not a fruit which in on my mind in Dec when we are busy eating oranges and drinking mulled wine.

When I spotted a nice looking watermelon in the shop I immediately thought of this salad combination. Especially since I hadn’t enjoyed it in ages. I always have some feta cheese in my fridge simply #becauseeverythingtastesbetterwithfeta. I love adding some of its saltiness to salads, as a topping on homemade pizza or on roasted veg. If you are following me on Instagram, you probably know this buy now. We also have some mint growing in the garden and a various amount of seeds can always be found in my pantry. If you don’t have mint, basil will work really well too.

healthy nouroshing salad for weight lossStraightforward Nutriton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from being a totally yummy summery fruit, watermelon also has a couple of useful health benefits. Because it is naturally sweet and because we nowadays seem to associate sweet things as being bad for us, many might avoid watermelon because they believe it is high in sugar. The fact is though that the fruit is almost 96% water and a cup of diced watermelon is only 9g of sugar compared to your 100g bag of sweets which might be about 40g of sugar. Due to its really high water content it is the perfect food for warm summer weather we inevitably sweat more and thus fore need to increase our fluid intake.

It contains sodium which we also tend to loose when we sweat. To top it all off it is high in Vitamin C  and Vitamin A both strong antioxidants which are never a bad idea, which will hopefully protect us from aging damages from the sun. See nature really has created cleaver ways of foods to work with the seasons and according to our varying needs.

You’ll have this salad done in a matter of minutes, perfect while someone else is sorting out the BBQ. Make a much of it as you like depending on how many people you intend to feed. I enjoyed my bowl all to myself as a refreshing lunch. Probably no harm in adding a few more greens on the side if you so wish. Turn any leftover watermelon that you don’t use for the salad in to a smoothie the following day. (Recipe to follow!)

 

Watermelon Salad with Feta & Fresh Mint

Serves 2

2 cups fresh watermelon, diced, seeds removed if needed

70 g good quality feta cheese

a few sprigs of fresh mint leaves

some raw pumpkin seeds – or use any other nut or seed you fancy

Place the diced watermelon in a large bowl. Mix with a few shredded mint leaves and top with some crumbled feta cheese and a few pumpkin seeds. As easy as that!

 

Straightforward NutritionHealhty summer salad for weightloss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butter Bean & Beetroot Hummus

Butter Bean & Beetroot Hummus

Isn’t it funny how your tastebuds changes? A few years ago there was no way I would have eaten beetroot and cumin was never one of my favourite spices either. Now I simply love it. Isn’t it just amazing how we can grow to love new flavours and foods? Our taste is like life itself, ever growing and evolving. The biggest hurdle may just being brave enough to try some new stuff out, in the first place. So even if you are not sure you will like this pink hummus, based on previous beetroot and/or hummus experiences, go ahead, take the plunge and try something new. Surprise your tastebuds by stepping out of your comfort zone. You might actually like it!

 

Beetroot hummus

Beetroot is your everyday superfood. They are a pretty pink nutritional powerhouse and an excellent example of how food can work as medicine. They are rich in folic acid, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. The purple-red colour comes from betacyanin which is considered an important cancer fighting compound. Beetroots, particularly in its raw state is a very strong detoxifier due to its high content of the antioxidant glutathione. They taste great raw, grated into a salad or in a juice. Or you can cook them by boiling them or roasting them. Pickled beets are also popular. Personally I prefer the raw or roasted. I find it is quicker to roast them than boil them, plus the roasting seems to bring out the sweet flavour too.

Cumin is a typical Middle Eastern flavour and works really well with pulses. It is the main spice in your usual hummus and its earthy flavour marries really well with the earthiness of the beetroot. It is considered as a carminative herb meaning it has digestive health benefits and can reduce flatulence. No wonder it is suited to use with pulses…

Tahini is the other staple ingredient of hummus and it works very well in this recipe too. Tahini is sesame seeds ground into a paste. It is quiet bitter on its own but gives a creaminess to the hummus. I find it also pulls all the different flavours together beautiful. Seasame seeds are a great source of calcium, so an important addition to any diet, but particularly to keep them bones healthy.

Beetroot hummusBeetroot hummus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This beetroot hummus is delicious as a dip with raw veggies, on top of oat cakes or as a side dish to a mixed salad, grilled fish or what ever else you can think of. Even though it contains several earthy ingredients it is surprisingly sweet. You will get the best texture if you use a food processor.

Enjoy this pretty pink powerhouse in anyway you see fit. If you make it, I would love to hear what you though of it. 🙂

Butter Bean & Beetroot Hummus

Serves 2

1 tin of butter beans, drained & rinsed

2 large beetroots, peeled

2 tsp dark tahini

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp ground cumin

sea salt & black pepper, to season

Start by roasting your beets. Peel and chop the beetroot into chunks. Place on an ovenproof tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Roast in a preheated oven at 200°C, for about 40 min or until soft. Once the beetroot is done, let them cool completely before adding to your food processor. A smart idea is to roast a couple of extra beets when you are making your usual roast veggies and then make the hummus later or the following day.

Add the butter beans, tahini and lemon juice along with the beets to your food processor and blend until you have a smooth paste.

The hummus will keep for a few days in the fridge if stored in an airtight container. Enjoy as a dip, spread or as a side to your main meal.

 

Beetroot hummusBeetroot hummus