Coconut Panacotta with Raw Raspberry Chia Jam

Coconut Panacotta with Raw Raspberry Chia Jam

 

Let’s continue with the theme of sweetness. And summer.

After about 10 days spent with my family in Sweden, where it wasn’t up the usual July temperatures, I subsequently returned to an Ireland which kind of is.

So that inspired me to share this recipe I created a few years ago for a guest posting on someone else’s site, and since I’ve been a little short on time, plus the fact that there are some internal work currently being done to the house I live in (think dust, shambles and loud drilling noises) then coming up with something totally fresh and new felt too challenging.

Here we are with an oldie, but a goodie.  Perfect for summer.

 

In these days of everyone going gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, vegan or paleo it can become a minefield to find something to eat, or serve, which is still tasty, nourishing and made from simple wholefood ingredients.

Personally I don’t believe that adhering to any of the dietary requirements above should mean restrictive and boring. (Nor does it mean that we should attach any other emotional connotations to it either, but that’s a different conversation.)

Rather the opposite in fact. If you have to adhere to any food restrictions for health reasons they can in fact serve as a gateway into a more simplistic, holistic and diverse way of eating.

 

The question I constantly ask myself  is “When did it become so complicated to choose what to eat?”

In the end of the day no matter what latest nutritional trend you follow, doesn’t it just come down to the quality of the food in the end? How it has been grown and produced – with care. How it’s been prepared – with love. And how it’s being served and eaten- with joy!

I don’t follow any particular dietary trend and eat most things which will make me feel good and do something good for my health. And if you’re going to cut something out of your diet for good, cut out the guilt.

 

Michael Pollan, author of several books on food and the history of cooking, eating, agriculture etc. have the best advice I know, which is really straightforward.

 

Eat (REAL) food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.

You simply can’t go wrong with that…

 

Now let’s move on to the recipe.

This is a simple, yet decadent summer dessert which should please the majority of your guests regardless of what they call themselves. what they can or cannot eat.

coconut panacotta

Coconut Panacotta with Raw Raspberry Chia Jam

Serves 2-4 depending on the sizes of the serving glasses you use

 

Panacotta:

1 can of coconut milk – Preferably organic and additive free

1 ½ tbsp. raw honey – use maple syrup if vegan

1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla powder

Zest of one organic lemon

2g agar-agar powder –  available in healthfood shops

 

Raspberry Chia Jam:

125 g fresh raspberries, washed & drained

Juice of ½ lemon – optional. Lime would be lovely too

1 tbsp of chia seeds

 

Place coconut milk, vanilla bean paste, honey, lemon zest and agar-agar powder in a small sauce pan. Bring it to a boil while constantly stirring to make sure the honey dissolves and prevent the agar-agar flakes from sticking to the bottom. Once the coconut milk mix reaches boiling point boil for one min, then remove from to heat and allow to cool. Once the coconut milk has cooled to finger temperature pour it into small serving glasses and allow to set in the fridge.

To make the chia jam; place your berries in a food processor / blender. Squeeze the lemon juice straight into the bowl of your food processor / blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer the blended berries to a container. Add in the chia seeds and stir until well combined. Let the chia jam sit for an hour or two to allow the seeds to gel. Stir a few times.

Add the jam on top of your set coconut panacotta to be served straight out of the glasses it’s set in. Garnish with a sprig of mint or some shaved dark chocolate.

Note* I did not add any sweetener to the chia jam. You can of course do so if you want it less tart.

Green Fusion Miso Soup

Green Fusion Miso Soup

This week’s recipe is one that we shared with our participants at our Mindfulness & Nutrition Retreat in Fermoy, Co. Cork, last Sunday.

This was the third one I’ve done in collaboration with my friend Jen (Blue Heron Mindfulness), I think that we are both feeling blessed in how this joint venture is shaping up. And so far the feedback from each event has been great. Which kind of makes it challenging to improve on then…

Though it was a long day, with lots of prep the previous day, I felt really energised afterwards and ended up having a productive week, until I got to Friday and Saturday… Then I really felt it.

Challenged by some overwhelm over all the thing still on my to-do list, as well as a measure of guilt over the yet-to-be-completed ones, I actually let go and decide to take a short nap on each day. Getting to bed late several nights, haven’t helped either and even though I often get what feels like good quality sleep, it’s not always enough hours.

It always makes me marvel at all of you super women out there with children, who seem to be able to go on despite endless nights of little sleep.  My body quickly says no to that. Would I cope?? Who knows… But I do know though that when we have little or no choice, we tend to be more resilient than we ever expected.

Miso Soup with greens

This miso soup is really quick and easy to make and best eaten on the day of making it, which is why I made it “on site”, and also to show our participants how quick and easy it can be to make something that’s nourishing as well as tasty. We can cook mindfully and creatively, but it doesn’t have to take all day!

I got the idea for this soup from scrolling through Instagram, and hadn’t made a miso soup in a very long time. Miso, made from fermented soya beans, has a salty umami flavour and is really nice as a stock for these kinds of clear broth style soups. Though I have yet to travel to Japan for an authentic taste experience, I believe that the traditional way is to serve it with just some seaweeds.

But seaweeds, though highly nutritious is not to everyone’s taste. So fear not, none included in this particular recipe!

Final note; if you are gluten intolerant or coeliac make sure you read the label of the miso paste you buy as some of them may contain barley. The one we used on the day did not. You will find miso in healthstores and in Asian grocery stores.

It keeps for a really long time too.

With this soup, I’m not all that particular with the measurements. You can adjust the quantities to your own taste preferences as well as to what you have on hand. This soup is fresh fast food, as it will be ready in 10 min!

 

Green Fusion Miso Soup

Serves 4

1 cup kale, stems removed & finely chopped or spinach, finely chopped

1 cup broccoli, chopped into small florets

½ cup frozen peas or edamame beans

1 leek, both white & green parts finely chopped

½ tsp chilli flakes

3-4 tbsp miso paste

Juice of 1 lime

A large bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

A small bunch of fresh mint, chopped

100g rice noodles

About 3 pints (1.5 litres) of fresh water

Black pepper, to season

 

Heat a large saucepan, then add a splash of olive oil. Reduce the heat, add the leek and chilli flakes then gently sweat until soft.

Add the water and the miso soup to the pan. Make sure that the miso paste is dispersed in the water.  You can taste the broth at this point and decide if you want more miso paste to make it a little bit more salty.

Bring to the boil. Add the noodles and bring back to a lively simmer. Cook noodles for about 5 min.

Add the chopped broccoli, chopped kale and the frozen peas / edamame beans. Bring the soup back up to the boil.

As soon as the broccoli becomes bright green, remove the saucepan from the heat.

Add the chopped herbs, and lime juice. Taste and adjust with some black pepper, more lime juice or a little more miso, if your taste buds are asking for it.

Serve immediately.

straightforward nutrition

 

 

White Bean Soup with Cashews

White Bean Soup with Cashews

I feel like February is a kind of threshold month. Neither here nor there. Some faint promises of Spring, yet Winter is not ready to lose it’s grip…

This time of the year, eating fresh foods, grown locally can be particularly challenging since not much grows this time of year. And wallets and bank accounts might feel equally barren, still be suffering from the aftermath of Christmas shopping sprees. Whether it is the end of the season, the end of the month or the end of the week, if money is tight feeding oneself well can be difficult. But…! If you know how to cobble a few store cupboard ingredients together, your body nor your tastebuds need not suffer.

 

This soup recipe sprung initially out of my desire and love of colour, to see if it would be possible to create a white creamy soup, without actual cream.

As you (may) know, white foods are often vilified as detrimental to our health and wellbeing.

Why? Because many “white” foods are the heavily processed ones, heavily refined where all the nutrients and fibre have been stripped off, and what’s left is a simple carbohydrate structure which is easily converted to glucose by the body. In the nutrition community we often call these foods “empty calories” since they don’t contribute any nutrition in form of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients or often neither good quality fats nor protein. Whereas vegetables gets the label “nutrient dense”, for (perhaps) obvious reasons.

So though it may be wise to limit your intake of highly refined and processed white foods, it may be equally wise to turn your attention to those in the plant kingdom that are naturally white, as they all provide health benefits in many various ways.

White Bean Soup

For this soup recipe I went with white beans, garlic, onion (yellow/white) and some cashew nuts. But of course there are other white gems, such as cauliflower (which is extremely versatile) and root veg such as celeriac and parsnips.

The cashew nuts and the beans, give this soup a really smooth and creamy texture. And as well as that, both are a good source of plant based protein. Which makes this soup lovely and filling. Oh and when it comes to store cupboard ingredients, as well as budget, keeping a few tins of beans + onion and garlic is definitely to be recommended for ease of creating simple, quick, versatile, nourishing and tasty meals that won’t cost the earth. I do admit that cashew nuts may not be the cheapest but if you are on a very tight budget, blanched almonds could work too, just make sure that you soak them for a few hours before throwing them into the saucepan.

I used fresh herbs here as we have some growing, but I can’t think of why dried ones wouldn’t work equally well.

 

White Bean Soup with Cashews

 

Serves 2 (Double the recipe if you are making it for a larger crowed)

1 tin of Butter Beans, drained & rinsed

1 yellow or white onion, peeled & finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely chopped

1/2 cup of cashew nuts, preferably soaked for a few hours but it is not vital

4-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary, stems removed & finely chopped (or use 1 tbsp dried herb)

2 bay leaves, fresh or dried

1 tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed (or use 1/2 tbsp dried herb)

Enough vegetable stock to cover ingredient about 1/2 inch

Sea salt & Black pepper, to season

 

Heat a large saucepan and add a splash of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and reduce heat to avoid burning. Gently sweat the onion until translucent and then add the garlic and stir for a minute.

Add the drained and rinsed white beans, all the herbs, the stock and the cashew nuts. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer.

Cook with a lid on for about 15 min. Remove pan from the stove top and allow it to cool down. Before blending remove the two bay leaves. Then blend until smooth.

Serve.

Straightforward Nutrition

 

An uplifting Carrot Soup

An uplifting Carrot Soup

In times of uncertainty, get creative…!

About 18 months ago I came across the work of a wise lady called Pema Chödron. She’s one of the more well known Buddhist teachers of the West. One of the books she’s written is called, “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”. It is a book centered around some of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, but I somehow feel that the deeper message that comes through, is one profound to humanity.

And though in a sense we always live in uncertain times, though currently I feel it is more intensely so…

This book starts with an opening quote from the famous American dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille, and I want share it with you all here as I think it is a beautiful reminder of life as well as a nice summary of the core message of the book;

“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”

 

And do you know what? Cooking, or let’s call it kitchen creativity, is a bit like that. If you don’t follow a recipe blindly, or even sometimes when you do, you can’t be guaranteed a particular outcome. The best way, is to stay present with the experience, taste as you go along, keep you eyes peeled for the consistency you’re looking for and so on. Because when you do, you have the chance to course correct, and still end up with something that’s edible or better. Perhaps even extra ordinary.

And for those times when you don’t, you usually learn something in the process too.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this conversation, especially since this post is really about a soup recipe. Well, last week, whilst I was struggling away with my head-cold (yes, not so smug now, thinking I got away with catching any of the winter bugs around…) I got a burst of creativity, as well as a strong desire to take a break from my computer for a day or two. So last Thursday I spent all day doing some of the things I like the most, creating new recipes and photographing the result. It is something that puts me in the FLOW. Especially when I can do it, with no restraints, without a need for any particular outcome and simply have the opportunity to be there, present to enjoy and engage in the process.

The outcome of this creative experience this time? Several new soup recipes! Over the coming weeks, I’m going to continue on with my Soup Series, that I started last year, and since we are slowly transitioning from Winter to Spring, and it’s still wet a and dreary, cold and dark, I would say that it is the perfect time to enjoy soup. It’s also a neat way to enjoy a variety of vegetables in this way, when we may have less cravings for raw salads.

So hold on, let’s get out the big saucepan and get ready for some soup cooking!

carrot soup

This recipe came together as an experiment inspired by hearing about a friend’s juice combination. Since I don’t own a juicer, I thought; “Hmm, I wonder if these veggies will work as well together in a soup?”.

I added a couple of spices, an onion and rather than putting the beetroot into the soup as my friend had done with her juice, I sliced it really thin and made little beet crisps for garnish.

This recipe lends itself to practicing some mindful creativity as you can adjust the amount of cardamom, coriander seeds and ginger to your own taste preferences. My first attempt was just a tad ginger heavy, but whatever way you go, this soup still has a very fresh taste. Almost Spring-like…

 

An Uplifting Carrot Soup

Serves 4

6-8 carrots, peeled & chopped

1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled & finely chopped (less if you want it less “hot”)

1 yellow onion, peeled & finely chopped

1 tsp coriander seeds, ground

1/2 – 1 tsp ground cardamom (If you use pods, 3-4 should be enough)

About 1 litre vegetable stock, or water + 1 low sodium non MSG stock cube.

Juice of one fresh lemon

Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to season

 

Heat a large saucepan. Once the pan is hot add a splash of olive oil and then add in your chopped onions. Turn down the heat enough to avoid burning the onions. Instead gently sweat them until soft and translucent.

Then add the chopped carrots, the fresh ginger, and the ground spices. Sweat the carrot for a few minutes on low heat. Then add in the stock.

Bring the soup to boil and then reduce to a lively simmer. Cook for a further 20 min or so, until the carrots are soft. Remove from stove top and allow to cool a little before you blend it.

I tend to use a stick blender directly into the pan. If you are using a stand-alone blender you want to be sure that the soup is well cooled, otherwise you may end up with non intentional orange splatters everywhere… Which is not what I meant by creative cooking!

Once the soup is blended smooth add in the lemon juice. Start with 1/2 a lemon and then taste and season. If you think it needs more lemon, add the other half.

 

Enjoy the soup with some toppings if you wish! Here is a great recipe if you want to test out making some beetroot crisps. Though if you choose to make that recipe with the intention of adding it to this soup I would keep the seasoning simple with just sea salt or none.

 

straightforward nutrition

Chocolate Truffles with a Swedish Twist

Chocolate Truffles with a Swedish Twist

Can you believe it? Just a couple of weeks left of 2016, and Christmas just around the corner…! The common phrase of “Where does time go?” is the thing on my mind.  Maybe my dad has a point when he says that time moves faster the older we get. Stands to reason if we see time as a thing of perception rather than an absolute, which means of course each year, as we age each year is a smaller percent of our life. Worth pondering…

Though, I don’t know about you but some days, as a contrast to the time “flying by”, can feel like almost an entire lifetime with all the thing experienced that day.

My intention for this last recipe post of 2016 was not to get all philosophical and time conscious, even though one of my friends did point out that I am “almost” always late. Which does have some grain of truth to it… So right there is something for me to work on next year!

I’m going to share this basic dairy free chocolate truffle recipe with you, and even though I opted for a classic Swedish flavour combination, I will also give you some other flavour combinations to play around with. To be honest I think that from the basic recipe you can go wild and just let your imagination be the limit to your creativity!

These little truffles make a great gift, so if you are still looking for something to make / bring to the dinner party, hopefully this recipe will be a help.

lovely easy to make chocolate truffles

Raspberry and chocolate is a classic combination, but in Sweden raspberry and liquorice is also a classic combination. So I thought to myself one day “I wonder if the three would pair up equally well?”.  And to my mind they did! But if you don’t have / can’t get liquorice powder (I bought mine in Sweden on my last visit), then there’s some alternative pairings below.

 

Chocolate Truffles with A Swedish Twist

Makes about 15 truffles (try not to eat them as you roll the chocolate!)

Basic truffle recipe:

200g dark chocolate, 60-70%, broken in to pieces

100ml full fat coconut milk

Flavouring:

2 tsp ground licorice powder

A pinch of sea salt

Coating:

A few tbsp. freeze dried raspberry powder

 

To make the truffles; place the coconut milk in a small saucepan. Gently warm the coconut milk on medium heat. Once it if finger warm, add in the chocolate pieces. Let the warm coconut milk melt the chocolate for a minute or two, then stir the mix with a spoon until you have thick glossy mixture.

Add the licorice powder and pinch of salt and stir again until well combined. Pour the chocolate mix into a bowl and place in the fridge to set. This will take 2h or so.

Once the chocolate is set, take the bowl out of the fridge and scoop out a tbsp. worth of chocolate at the time and roll into small balls with your hands.

Place the freeze dried raspberry powder in  small bowl and roll the truffles in the powder. Once fully coated place the truffles in an airtight container and store in a cool place. Eat and enjoy!

 

Other flavour combinations (that I’ve tried so far!): Chili + raspberry powder, mint extract + matcha and spirulina powder, orange zest and cardamom + freeze dried blueberry powder.

If you can’t get any freeze dried berry powders you could roll your truffles in other things like sesame seeds, ground toasted hazel nuts or why not melted chocolates?

Use your imagination!

chocolate truffles

And just a few winter pictures from last weekend. Which reminded me of the wise words I came across recently;

 

“Where ever you are now, is where you’ve never been before”  – Ellen J. Langer

 

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and Holiday Season.

winter sun

irish winter landscape

 

Raw Coconut-Mint Chocolate

Raw Coconut-Mint Chocolate

It’s that time of the year again, when you get to indulge in making and giving, without anyone questioning it. Actually it seems much expected that you do so.

In this time of “shoulds”, “musts” and “have-tos”, a midst overwhelm and busyness perhaps a desire to slow down and take time, doing what really matters instead, is what we are truly looking for?

OK… So I do realise that it’s not everyone sees the kitchen as their creative playground (though this is surely all about perspective?!) but for those of us who do like to play in the kitchen, making sweet or savoury treats, bakes or dishes that can double up as gifts is a win-win!

And why not make a play date, not just for you and the kitchen, but invite a friend or two to come along too. The experience of cooking and eating is often elevated (in my experience) by sharing, so have fun.

These raw chocolates are really quick and easy to make and only require five ingredients. You’ll have them whipped up in no time.

Mint, chocolate and coconut is a classic combination, so if you know that you already like this combo, you will not be disappointed!

raw coconut-mint chocolate

Raw Mint-Coconut Chocolate

Makes 14 hearts

100g creamed coconut  ( ½ packaged)

 6-8 drops of mint extract

40g cacao butter

4 tbsp raw cacao powder

2 tbsp maple syrup

 

Roughly chop the creamed coconut and melt it on low heat in a small saucepan. Creamed coconut is available in most healthfood shops and also in Asian grocery stores. It is dehydrated fresh meat of mature coconuts and solid at room temperature.

Once the coconut is melted add the mint extract and then give it a good stir to make sure it is dispensed evenly. Add the melted coconut mix to the molds. Try to fill each mold to about ½. Place in the fridge to set, while you proceed to make the raw chocolate.

Melt the cacao butter in a heat proof bowl on top of a saucepan with simmering water. Once the cacao butter has fully melted, add the cacao powder and then mix until you have a smooth blend. And the maple syrup and mix again until your chocolate mix is again lovely and smooth.

Remove your mold tray from the fridge and spoon the chocolate mix on top of the coconut mix. Place the tray back in the fridge and let the chocolate set. This will take a few hours.

Once your chocolate has hardened, pop them out of the moulds and place in an airtight container in the fridge until you want to serve them. Or gift them!

***I use silicone ice cube molds to make these and it makes the process very easy. You can use any shapes you like of course and if you don’t have a mold, then you can try simply pouring the coconut layer out first on a lined tray and once set, add the raw chocolate layer. I haven’t actually tried that technique with this particular recipe, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

straightforward nutrition

If you want some more ideas of edible sweet gifts here are a few ideas from the archives:

Date Truffles Three Ways

Fruit and Nut Truffle Cake

Candid Almonds

Homemade Nutbutter

 

And here are a few other ones that I really would like to try out myself, from some of my favourite bloggers:

Maple Butter Roasted Nuts

Cardamom & Rosewater Caramels

Raw Apricot, Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites