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.
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.
This hot drink is surprisingly easy to make, so don’t be put off just by looking at the (long) ingredients list! Admittedly that used to be one of the things that was a deciding factor for me in the past when trying out new recipes, but slowly but surely I’ve extended my both my skills and my spice selection, through evoking some curiosity and a desire to keep pushing outside my comfort zone.
Like all things worth pursuing, it’s often outside that (in)famous comfort zone where some of the magic happens.
As the seasons change, it thought it was time to have something warming and nourishing back on the menu and I feel myself back craving for more warm comforting meals and warming foods which means more spices.
This week, we are more than half ways through Whole Detox, and we’ve traveled through from rooty red to the gorgeous gracious greens of love. For the final week we are moving into TRUTH, INSIGHT and SPIRIT, which is usually great fun, albeit uncomfortable at times when it comes to unraveling and walking on our path of self-discovery.
The other thing apart, from all the delicious focus on eating lots of colourful foods, is the nourishing community. The support, care and camaraderie, found in a small space online is just great. I think we sometimes forget how important it is for our wellbeing to surround ourselves with likeminded people. And as well as that, when we are working though difficult things such as negative thought patterns and emotions, both sharing our stories with others in a safe space and to be witness to other people’s stories is so healing.
I feel like when we read and listen to others’ stories that we realise that we are in fact not alone in our human struggles. Somewhere out there is someone else who has been through something similar and we can take comfort in this, knowing that what we are feeling is normal.
For me hearing about other people journeys through difficult times have given me both hope and courage to carry on believing in possibilities of change, when I’ve been in a head space that’s made it difficult to imagine so for myself. And the resilience of the human spirit never seem to amaze me either.
But let’s return to the recipe! This one actually came about as an inspiration from one of the recipes in Whole Detox called “Spice Shake”. Then I spotted that one of the other participants had made a warm version, simply by heating up the ingredients! Which totally appeals to m at the moment, satisfying all my cravings for warm nourishing comfort foods.
I’ve seen some variations of this type of drink around the internet over the past year or so, and I actually tried one, I think it was last year, but I was so put off by the overpowering combination of coconut and turmeric (which felt to me like I was drinking a curry!) so I abandoned the idea of having a go at it again. Normally this is the warming turmeric drink that I go for.
But I think this one might be repeated! I have made a couple of tweaks to the original recipe that inspired me. One is to use cashew milk instead of almonds or other nuts. Cashew nuts are a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. And they are really versatile as they are starchy but without insoluble fibre, which means they make the nicest and thickest nutmilk you can imagine and you don’t have to strain it either! However, you do need to plan ahead a little bit and get your nuts soaking the day before. Or at a push, for a few hours. It is worth it though and not actually much of an effort at all.
Spicy & Warming Cashew Milk
Serves 2 ( you will get more spice mix to use for future cups)
For the Cashew Milk
1/2 cup cashew nuts, raw
For the Spice Blend
2 tbsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp mixed spice or pumpkin spice blend (usually a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger & allspice)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
For the final cup
1-2 star anise
1 tsp coconut oil, raw & organic – optional
1/2 – 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
To make the cashew nut milk; Soak the nuts in enough water to cover, overnight. In the morning rinse and then blend with fresh water. Store in a glass bottle or jar until ready to use.
To make the spice mix: Add all ingredient into a small glass jar. Mix until well combined.
To make the warm & spicy cashew milk drink; Add the cashew milk into a saucepan. I usually use the cup that I’m intending to serve out of as my measurement. Add 1/2 tablespoon of spice blend per person to the milk plus one – two star anise. Gently health the milk whilst stirring with a whisk. Once the milk is warmed through, add the coconut oil, if using as well as the honey or maple syrup. Give it all another whisk so that the oil and sweeteners are dispersed throughout.
Things have been a little quite here, I must admit. AND I’ve been feeling guilty about it too. A whole month and nothing written or posted. My aim is to keep it to at least one post every second week, but it just didn’t work out over these past few weeks. Looking back I think it’s been a mix of a writers block, busyness and feeling a little scattered with various ideas and projects and somewhere in between all of this I also lost my focus. But now I feel ready to get back to it!
Over these past weeks I’ve felt more drawn to eating carbohydrates than I normally do. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies know what they need, if we just take some time to listen in… Of course there are several underlying physiological reasons to why we crave carbohydrates when we are stressed. One for instance is that through the release of the stress hormone Cortisol, blood sugar is raised through the release of glycogen from the liver which in turn will raise the blood sugar levels in the blood. This is a natural process, hard wired as a way of survival from our ancestral days when the stress response was activated through a physical threat. Higher blood sugar means more energy distributed to our muscle cells, so we could successfully run from the imminent danger. With the rise in blood sugar a dip follows once insulin has been released and moved the sugar from the blood to the cell for energy. Once the blood sugar levels drop below the threshold hunger signals are triggered and it is time to eat again.
Today most of our “stressors” are percieved ones. Things like money worries, work deadlines and /or relationship problems. Or even smaller stuff, like who did or said what. Or perhaps didn’t do what they said they would, are everyday annoyances. These stressors don’t exactly threaten our survival but they can activate our body’s physiological stress response in the exactly the same way.
I’m currently taking part in the Whole Detox Programme™. We are almost half way through and it has been a very interesting experience thus far. I’m not really that into Detoxes as most of the ones you see floating around today are “quick fixes” in disguise. However Whole Detox™ is a different detox altogether, where the focus is less on what NOT to eat and more so on WHAT to eat. As well as that it has a very strong component of detoxing thoughts, emotions and old behaviour patterns that no longer serves us, which is certainly hard but liberating and something most of us need to detox from every now and then if we want too move forward and grow. It’s basically 21 days of putting yourself first in a wholesome nourishing way. And THAT is something I truly believe in.
Carving out space for ourselves in our every day lives is as much of an important part as is eating good wholesome food if we want to embrace FULL health and healing. In fact, I think if we don’t carve out time for ourselves, making healthy food choices is almost impossible. This is an observation I’ve made for myself throughout this past few days. I noticed how not taking time to eat as well as I can, paved way for lots of snacking and fairly monotonous meals… I also realised that my old pattern of using carbohydrate rich foods as a “pick me up” is still the same, even though my food choices are a million miles better than they used to be.
This need for “pick me ups” is a behaviour and a pattern for sure, but it is also my own body’s inner wisdom of knowing that this works and will get my energy levels up quickly when I need it. Interesting and Intriguing.
So, with all this as a backdrop I will share you this homemade nut butter recipe! I was first introduced to nut / seed butters when in nutrition college. Sure I had come across Tahini and Peanut butter but none of the other varieties. As the use of nut butters has become increasingly popular the cost has gone up. Making your own is only marginally cheaper but it does open the door for a lot more variety. It wasn’t actually until I ready Green Kitchen Stories post some months ago that I finally took the plunge to start making my own. I’ve always thought you needed a fancy Vitamix for the job but it turns out that what you really need is a food processor. And one of those I have 🙂
Pairing dried fruit like figs or dates with nut butter will ensure that your blood sugar won’t spike as crazy as it would if you have the fruit on its own. The fat and protein content will help slow down the sugar release and you get a more steady energy boost, not leaving your sweet tooth asking for more 30 min later! This is truly one of my favourite snacks.
Homemade Cashew-Walnut Nutbutter
Makes one small jar
150g raw cashew nuts
150g raw walnuts
Pre heat your oven to 150°C. Place the nuts on a lined baking tray and roast for about 10-15 min, until golden but not burnt.
Remove the nuts from the oven and allow them to cool down.
This is what I do as I don’t have a very strong food processor, so to prevent a burn out of it I grind the nuts in my Nutribullet first. Once I have a kind out nut flour, I place this in my food processor and let it finish off the job.
The key here is persistence. It may take a few minutes until you have a soft creamy nutbutter. Don’t give up! Stop and scrape down the sides as needed and keep going with the blending until you reach a soft creamy consistency and the nuts have released their oils.
Place your nut butter in a glass jar and serve with figs, dates or on top of oat cakes with a few slices of banana. Or have a few tea spoons straight from the jar 😉
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SNACK ON THE GO, WHEN YOU NEED A QUICK PICK ME UP? Please comment below!
This raw cake is surprisingly easy to make, tastes amazing and is naturally gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. I kind of wish I could take credit for the recipe, but at least the pictures are all mine. Which of course means I had the pleasure of both cooking and eating it! Lucky me.
A while back I was contacted by two lovely ladies, who asked me if I (Straightforward Nutrition) would like to be part of their up coming giveaway competition, to win a fancy Ninja Blender, over on Instagram. I thought it sounded like lots of fun as well as a great opportunity to connect with other like-minded souls so I said, yes of course. Influxr is a website and an online community which is about connecting and inspiring each other to keep going on the journey to health, fitness and happiness. Inspiring, encouraging, motivating and empowering people to take control over their own health is very much part of what I do as a Nutritional Therapist, so being part of this competition was really a no-brainer. And the truth is we can not really achieve greatness all by ourselves. We need someone who got our back from time to time.
Who inspires you? Did you ever take some time and think about who YOUR everyday heroes are? There are so many things and people who inspires me every day to keep moving forward, to pick myself up when things are tough and who helps me grow and develop into an even better version of myself. I am blessed to have some amazing friends (you know who you are) but I have also found a lot of inspiration, particularly foodie and health related inspiration through various food blogs. You will find a selection of them here.
Having positive people in your life is another source of inspiration and something I am constantly consciously aspiring to be one of those. Why? Simply because positive people have more fun! It makes sense, doesn’t it? And the word to focus on here is consciously. You will at some point have to CONSCIOUSLY decide what it is you want (whatever that is). So go get it 🙂
Anyway, back to the recipe. If you have never tried a raw cake before, I urge you to give this one a try. They are incredible easy to make and taste great. No white sugar involved either. Or white flour for that matter, so this makes a perfect dessert for all your “free from” friends. Paleo friendly, coeliac approved and raw, vegan. Just don’t invite someone with a nut allergy though and you will be sorted.
This giveaway competition was run over on Instagram, over the course of a week. Each day the contestants where given one main ingredient to create a dish around. The winning recipe was based using lemons as the star of the show. The lovely @orsomethingsweet came up with this winning combination. It’s a super simple wholesome cake recipe, just as we like it here on Straightforward Nutrition. A perfect way to celebrate that Spring has finally sprung. I’ve made some slight alterations to the original recipe, but very modest ones.
When styling and shooting this blog post I really realised that I want a cake stand.It would make for a way better photo along with my vintage cake knife, which I currently have put in a safe place – Out of sight, out of mind kind of a place, it seams…
Raw Lemon ‘Cheese’ Cake with Summer Berries
Serves 6-8 comfortably
1 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
6 medajool dates, pitted
2 cups (200g) raw cashew nuts, soaked overnight
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract
juice of two medium sized lemons + zest of 1 lemon
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
Make the crust first by placing walnuts, dessicated coconut and dates in your food processor. Blend until you have a sticky dough. To make this process a little easier, give the walnuts a whirl first on their own so they are crumbly before you add in dates and coconut. Line your cake tin with some cling film at the bottom. Take out the dough and press it firmly into your spring form. Set aside.
To make the cashew nut filling, simply place all the ingredients in your food processor. If you have a strong blender, like a Vitamix, then use that instead for a smoother finish. But it will work OK in your food processor too. Blend and keep scraping down the sides as you go along. Once you have a smooth creamy mixture, it’s done. Add the cream to your base and then place the whole thing in the freezer for a few hours to set.
Remove the cake from the freezer about 30 min before serving and decorate with berries of your choice. I went for some carmelised lemons, strawberries and raspberries, but you can use anything you have to hand really. Serve with more berries if you wish. Store any leftovers in the freezer. That is if you have any left…
N.B. I used an 8″ spring form here. If you use a larger form or want a thicker cake, increase the quantities of the ingredients.