I often think about this relentless striving to be more, do more and to continue to better ourselves. The beginning of each year is a time when this message becomes excessively loud. The “how to” of creating a “new you” is E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E.
Of course I believe in self development and growth, because that forms part of the work I do in my clinical practice, yet this message of striving to become a new version of ourselves feels like it carries an undertone of unworthiness to me. Why else would we want to be a NEW version of ourselves? Are we trying to eradicate the very truth that we are actually worthy human beings just by being here?
One of my ambitions last year was to attend a 9 day Vipassana retreat, which I was very blessed to actually achieve. I have done a couple of shorter silent meditation retreats in the past, so this time I had a fair idea of what to expect. What I didn’t expect though was the intense tiredness I felt for the first few days. Every spare moment, in between the formal sittings, I took naps. I meditated, ate and rested. It took a few days before I actually had enough energy and desire to go for some longer walks. My body was tired because my mind was so full and had been so overstimulated. The thing is, it is only in this intentional stillness that I can really notice how much my mind is racing.
Though I don’t consider myself someone who is extreme, doing something as radical as spending time in silence and meditating for hours over the course of a week has been one of the best forms of resting and recovering for me. I know this is not for everyone and you have to find what works for you, of course. Going on retreat where the outside stimuli is virtual nil has been the only way for me to completely let go. It’s not easy, but it has been possible, and so rewarding.
With this experience freshly in my mind one of my intentions for 2019 is definitely to let go more, to be more present and to allow my life to unfold more than me constantly pushing and striving. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have ambitions for things I’d like to happen, places I’d like to see and conversations I want to have, it just means that I am more open than attached to outcome. Basically I am taking more of a curious approach this year. Let’s see what will happen!
Before I move on to sharing my first recipe of this year, a green smoothie with some seasonal ingredients, I want to circle back to the self development topic. If we stop striving for being some different version of ourselves then what? Should we just give up on the self development project altogether?
I like to think about self development work more like a homecoming. A way to really get to know ourselves and to develop the skills, resilience and courage to live our lives on our own terms. To be able to be more of whom we are, rather than what society think we should be. So any tools and practices that helps us returning home to ourselves, to peel of all the layers of expectations and external driven motivations get my vote.
If you want to spend this year getting curious about your strengths and weaknesses, about what makes you tick and about what brings you joy, just know that I will be here cheering you on all the way. Just know that regardless of what you do, or don’t do, you are still enough and worthy just by being you.
So now to this recipe. Yeah, posting a green smoothie recipe in January does feel a little like playing into the hands of Diet Culture, but I also know that my body craves fresh foods and greens after all the holiday foods. However, when we’ve given ourselves full permission to enjoy all foods and eat (at least mostly) from a place of attunement, having a green smoothie doesn’t HAVE to mean that we are jumping on the diet bandwagon.
I have to admit that cold smoothies in cold weather is not my usual go to either, but this seasonal combination is so delicious and having a smoothie is a quick and easy way to consume something green, when you are craving it!
Apple & Kale Green Smoothie (For The Winter Season)
1 small apple, core removed & roughly chopped into chunks
1 small banana or 2 Medjool dates
A few leaves of green kale, stems removed & roughly chopped – I used cavolo nero here.
1 tbsp protein powder of choice – I tend to use an unflavoured pea protein – optional
100 ml full fat coconut milk
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
150 ml soy milk or other plant milk of choice
Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. If you are using dates, don’t forget to remove the stones!
I personally like my smoothies at room temperature, but if you like them colder you can either use frozen banana slices in place of the fresh banana or ad some ice. Just make sure your blender can handle it. Enjoy!
Woho! The first new recipe for my new site, an Apple & Blackberry Crumble is here. I really hope you are excited about this as I am. Especially since it was 1st of July since I last put up something here, and back then the website looked vastly different.
When I decided to re design it, I knew that it was a big project and that it would take me some time to do it. The summer months seemed to be the perfect time to get going as clinic wise this tends to be a slower time of the year for me. Having said that, it wasn’t my preference to spend all that screen time when the weather was so lovely. On the upside, there were days when it was almost too hot to be outside (imagine saying that about an Irish summer!), so eventually it all came together.
The feedback has been lovely so far and if you have been hanging around here before, then I hope that you can still find your way around just fine. I am happy enough with how this re design turned out, and glad that all the tech skills that I have amassed over the past five years or so came to good use. Another positive thing was that my blogging hasn’t been weekly over these past five years as I had to do some minor editing to all my blog posts and 125 of them was more than enough to be honest!
Creating and developing recipes that are seasonal requires some timing. If you are using seasonal ingredients then making winter recipes in July is a challenge and it may also mean that sometimes when you create a recipe in season, by the time it is ready to be published the season has passed… That’s exactly what happened with this Apple & Blackberry Crumble. When I moved house last year, this was one of the first things I made. Because I liked it so much I made it several times when I had people over for dinner. It is a spicy twist on a seasonal classic.
The crumble is crunchy and buttery and the apples are tart. Using Chinese Five Spice, which is a spice blend made up of cinnamon, fennel, star anise, cloves and black pepper was born out of curiousity. All of these spices individually pairs well with apple so I thought, why not in a crumble? The result is something a little different but more interesting than your typical apple and blackberry crumble. Using ground hazelnuts add to the seasonality and oats makes for a crispier crumble topping. If you don’t have blackberries, just omit. Or be bold and add something else like blueberries or blackcurrants.
Apple & Blackberry Crumble with Chinese Five Spice
2 large cooking apples
½ cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
60 g hazelnuts, ground in to a rough flour
75g cold butter, cubed
60 g rolled oats, gluten free if necessary
4 tbsp muscovado sugar
½ tsp Chinese Five Spice
¼ tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp rice flour or spelt flour if it doesn’t have to be gluten free
Heat your oven to 180˚C. Peel and core your cooking apples then cut them into neat slices.
Toss the apple slices in the Chines Five Spice and the ground cardamom and then place them in an oven proof baking dish. Scatter over the black berries.
In a separate bowl add the ground hazelnuts, sugar, rice or spelt flour and rolled oats. Mix it all together with a spoon. Then add the cold butter into the flour mix and with your hands rub the butter and flour together until you have what resembles bread crumbs.
Scatter the crumble topping evenly over the apple slices and black berries. Then bake in the oven for 35 min until golden and the apples are soft.
I like serving this with sour cream or crème fraiche, as the tartness works well with the spices. However a really nice vanilla ice cream would be good too.
It is hard to remember that it was just a mere four months ago that we had a foot of snow here, when we are currently enjoying days upon days of sunny weather and temperatures in the mid 20°Cs. To me, who quiet like the heat, this current spell feels like true soul nourishment. A way to fill up my cup after a long wet, cold Winter and Spring.
The weather and the seasons are such a great metaphor as well as reminder of the cyclical nature of life. That even in the darkest hour, we can trust that the light will eventually return.
Over the years the rhythm of my food choices has become fairly cyclical too. Warmer foods in colder weather and colder foods in warmer weather. Can you relate?
I think it’s something that has evolved over time for me, the more I’ve allowed myself to let my intuition guide my food choices, the more seasonal my food choices have become.
We can spend years of our lives fighting cravings and hunger signals, simply trying to ignore our bodies. We forget to listen. We don’t dare to trust. It can be a long arduous journey home.
This summer I am taking 12 weeks, diving deeper into understanding the many mechanisms that underlie our relationship with food, eating and our bodies. It seems to be a subject that is vast and complex, yet it could (should) be one of the simplest things in our lives. Feeding ourselves.
As much as I love creating new recipes, reading recipe books and photographing food, I equally enjoy working with clients and counselling people back to peace and freedom around food and eating. This kind of work is not linear, and more of a process than setting a goal to go after. It is intentional however. The intention being healing, freedom and peace.
I will continue to unpack my learnings, observations and insights in other blog post. Now let’s get back to the recipe!
This Green Goddess Salad, is one of those recipes that may look intimidating to some, with lots of ingredients. Though truly, it isn’t at all. I don’t tend to do anything too complicated anyway…
I prefer my salads this time of year to be mostly raw, crunchy, to contain something salty (ought to replace those lost electrolytes!) and ideally assembled in minutes.
We know from the science that eating a variety of foods, as well as plenty of colourful foods are beneficial to our health. So with that in mind I sometimes play a game of trying to see how many different types of food of the same colour I can fit in one dish. This Green Goddess Salad is one of those experiments.
Green Goddess Salad
1 medium size courgette
5 spears of fresh asparagus
1/2 cup of frozen peas, thawed or freshly podded ones if you can get some!
A handful of fresh mint leaves, torn
A handful of unsalted pistachios, shells removed and roughly chopped
50 g of feta cheese, crumbled (crumbly goats cheese will work too)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
Some black pepper, to season (I add some to all my meals)
Rinse and dry the courgette and the asparagus, then take out your vegetable peeler. To make thin ribbons simply shave the courgette and then do the same with the asparagus spears. When you get to the more watery core of the courgette, you can leave this out.
Defrost the peas by placing them in a bowl and then covering them with some boiling water from the kettle for a minute or so. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Place the courgette and asparagus ribbons together on a plate, or in a bowl. Add the peas, the torn fresh mint leaves and the chopped pistachios. Crumble some feta over and then finish up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some balsamic vinegar and a little bit of ground black pepper (if you wish!)
Serve as is for a lighter summer meal, or as a side dish to a BBQ. Best eaten on the day it is made.
Ok, so straight up I am going to admit that when I made this Summer Salad first, I didn’t intend to make it as a potential blog recipe. I was just trying to come up with some new meal ideas, as I was working on improving the variety of foods that I am eating.
However, when I sat down to eat it, I loved this food combination so much that I decided to photograph the leftovers and then share the recipe with you all here! This Summer Salad works really well if you want to feed a crowd, as a mid week meal (having the grains pre-cooked and the veggies roasted in advanced) or as a side dish to a BBQ.
I hadn’t had whole spelt grains for some time, and had actually forgotten how much I enjoy them. Especially in dishes like this. You will find whole spelt grain or Farro, in most healthfood stores. I always thought that Farro was just a different name for Spelt, turns out they are actually two different types of wheat, though fairly similar in taste and texture. This article breaks it down nicely. If you can only get Farro, then that will work equally well as both grains are chewy in texture with a slightly nutty flavour. The best thing with these grains are that they freeze really well too, so you can cook a large batch and then freeze any extra to use in future meals.
I first came across spelt grains in a Swedish cookbook 6-7 years ago, at a friend’s place. I was so smitten with the simplicity of the recipes, as well as the beautiful pictures and I would consider it one of the books which changed my style of cooking and eating. And it introduced me to some new foods as well as ideas on how to make simple tasty colourful meals.
Of course every body is different and will respond differently to foods, and only you can know what foods works best with your own body as well as within your own lifestyle. Meals and dishes like this one, seems to work fairly well for me.
It always amazes me how some flavours and foods naturally marry together. Often you will find that those that do, tend to grow / be in season at the same time. It’s like Nature’s own natural rhythm comes through in flavours and combinations. It has also been said, that in order for a meal to be “complete”, it does not just have to contain the macro nutrients fat, carbohydrate and protein but should ideally cover all flavour profiles as well. Maybe this is why we sometimes want a bite of something sweet to just round out a meal that have been heavy on fat and protein?
In this Summer Salad, I feel I’ve got it covered with some sweetness from the carmelised onion, some saltiness from the feta which also contributes with an element of cold if the rest of the salad is served warm. You will get some nutty and chewy texture from the grain, some sharpness from the peppers and a freshness from the basil leaves.
I truly hope you will enjoy this Summer Salad as much as I do!
Summer Salad with Whole Spelt Grains & Slow Roasted Veg
150g whole spelt grains (dry weight)
75g feta cheese
250g peppers of various types & colour, chopped into large chunks
100g of cherry tomatoes
1 red onion, peeled & sliced
5 cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to season
Heat oven to 150°C. Place the chucks of pepper, the cherry tomatoes, the sliced onion and the whole garlic cloves on to a baking tray. Season with some sea salt and black pepper and drizzle with some olive oil. Toss the veggies in the oil to make sure they are evenly coated. Then place the tray in the warm oven and slow roast for about 1h.
Stir the veggies once in awhile. What you want is a slight carmelisation of the onion and the peppers, but not burnt. The vegetables should be soft and fragrant. Once cooked set aside to cool down.
To cook the grains; Rinse the grains well first to remove any dust or impurities then drain well before adding to a saucepan. Cover the grains with plenty of water, bring to a lively boil and cook for about 45 min. The grains are ready when they are chewy but not hard. Drain and set aside.
This salad can be served warm or cold and both the spelt grain as well as the slow roasted veggies will keep for a few days in the fridge.
Assemble the salad by adding the slow roasted veggies to the cooked grains. Make sure you remove the skin from the roasted garlic cloves also. Add the crumbled feta and the basil leaves and then give the whole salad a gentle mix before serving.
And if you have spelt grains left over then try this salad
As I am striving to simplify my life with less stuff, I also feel a draw to create recipes that reflects that. Amid the current hype of “50-fancy-ingredient-lattes”, what I want is something tasty and comforting made from just a few store cupboard ingredients.
Maybe it is my shift towards digging deeper into the social justice side of health, or it is a subconscious longing for my Swedish roots. Or maybe it is having a somewhat constrained food budget… I don’t know. What I do know is that there are some real delights to be had, by the skill of being able to turn just a few simple ingredients into something yummy, especially when the weather has you all down.
These cookies, or biscuits where something I made several times this past winter. It was like my body craved something energy dense in order to cope with the long cold wet days. But maybe it was just my tastebuds calling out for something with the combination of fat and sugar. Either way, these basic oat cookies hit the spot every time!
The initial obsession with this particular ingredient combination started off when I spotted a flapjack recipe on Instagram. Over the course of my trial and errors developing this recipe, I learned that the ratios of sugar/oats/butter/honey will affect the texture and quality of your end product. More butter – Less oats will give you a crispier kind of cookie. Increasing the ratio of oats and you’ll end up with more of a flapjack, chewy kind of bar.
To be honest, what I was aiming for was something like the Swedish oat cookies called ‘Havreflarn’, which is a crispy candied type of cookie. The thing is, the recipe for Havreflarn uses wheat flour also and I wanted to try and recreate something without it. You know how it goes though… Baking, apparently, is an exact science so if you go changing any one component, you most likely will not end up with what was the intended outcome of the original recipe. Never the less though, it can be equally tasty and satisfying! Which which I am, self proclaiming about this recipe experiment that I am sharing with you here.
So let’s get to it! This is NOT a dairy free, sugar free kind of cookie. This is an all in treat made with a few things you can buy in your corner shop, or small country village shop to whip up in no time when you need something to go with that comforting cup of tea / coffee / hot chocolate. Those days when we need something to light up a dreary cold day (and when you live in Ireland those are part of every season…)
Basic Oat Cookies
Makes about 12
75g butter ( I use salted)
45g dark muscovado sugar (but any type will do. I just like the flavour of muscovado sugar more)
50g porridge oats
25g oat flour (porridge oats milled in your blender)
1 tbsp milk of choice (dairy or non dairy is fine)
1 tbsp of runny honey (get the best quality you can find and afford)
1/4 tsp baking powder
This recipe is super handy because you can mix all the ingredient directly into the saucepan that you use to melt the butter. Less washing up that way!
Heat the oven to 185°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients and stir until you have an even mix of deliciously tasting butter, sugar, honey and oats. (Don’t eat it all this way though, I know it is tempting!)
Using two spoon, spoon a dollop of cookie mixture on to the lined baking sheet. If you want them a bit neater looking than mine then shape them up a bit. Leave some space between each dollop as you don’t want your cookies flowing into each other.
Bake for about 7 min until golden and a little brown around the edges. Let the cookies cool on a rack before tucking in. They will firm up a little as they cool.
Store in an airtight container. Will probably keep for a few days. (Mine never lasts long enough to go off.)
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this salad, it really packs a punch and is fairly substantial due to the chickpeas which provides plenty of fibre and some protein. It is fresh, warm and a perfect dish for going from colder weather to warmer days.
I know that the weather is something that is beyond ones control but it is still intriguing to me how much it can impact on ones mood. I don’t know if it actually has been an unusually long Winter and cold Spring, or if it just feels that way, because we keep telling ourselves it has been… I mean I almost had a breakdown the other week when the “heatwave” didn’t turn up on said day.
To be honest, I don’t mind anytime of the year when the sun shines, but there hasn’t been much of that around lately. Though I finally got around to order some seeds for this year’s GIY project (why am I always so late with it??) and the beds are almost ready for some planting, it feels late as we are now into May. That’s life I suppose, nothing you can force and it is a great way to practice mindfulness, learning to release control over things we can’t control and instead paying attention to our reactions.
So as we are on the cusp of entering into a season full of lighter, more raw food based meals (at least this is what I am craving when the weather warms up) I thought this salad which is a kind of hybrid with some cooked foods and some raw, would be a nice one to share. I have made it several times and it is so delicious! Apart from the spices, you can probably buy these ingredients in your local corner shop. And even if you don’t have any green fingers at all, I bet you can keep some fresh mint alive. Seriously, it is impossible to kill!
Fennel Roasted Chickpea Salad with Orange & Mint
Serves 2 (double the quantities if you are feeding more people)
1 tin of chickpeas, rinsed & drained
4 small carrots, washed, peeled & chopped into rounds
1 orange, peeled & sliced lengthwise or into segments
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
Some olive oil to roast in
A few fresh mint leaves, chopped
For the dressing:
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
2 tbsp good quality oil of choice – olive oil or walnut or pistachio or flax or hempseed oil will all work.
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to season
Pre heat oven to 180°C. On a baking tray add the chickpeas and the carrots. Give the coriander seeds and the fennel seeds a bit of a pelting in a pester and mortar before sprinkling across your tray with the chickpeas and carrots.
Drizzle over some olive oils and a seasoning of sea salt and black pepper then with your hands gently toss everything so that the oil and spices cover the carrots and chickpeas.
Place the tray in the oven and roast for about 25 min until the chickpeas are a little bit dry and crispy.
To make the dressing; add all ingredient in your blender ( I use the small cup of my nutribullet) and blend for 20-30s. Taste and season to your own preferences.
Once the carrots and chickpeas are done, add them to two serving plates. Then add the fresh orange segments, pour over the dressing and scatter the chopped mint leaves.
*** This salad will keep another day in the fridge, but best to keep the chickpeas / carrot mix parted from the dressing and the orange / mint until served ***