I haven’t actually written or posted a recipe or blog post here since early March. It definitely wasn’t my intention to take a writing break, but like so many other times, life happens and it’s not always possible to fit everything in, even if there’s a desire to do it.
If I’m really honest though, I am not sure that the urge to sit down and write was there over these past few months. My life took some turbulent directions for awhile and I am still trying to adjust to a new rhythm. Transitions are not always easy, but they are necessary and most definitely a part of life. (Sure I even have a tattoo that says “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional…”)
During these past couple of months cooking took a complete backseat, well at least the consciously creative part of it. Instead, because of limited time, energy and funds it became about practicality, speed and ease. And a necessity to just eat food in enough quantities so that I could get on with the other parts of my life that needed tending to.
My overall creativity took a nosedive too, or rather, was put on hold. It is difficult to create from a place of survival…
My meals of choice over these couple of months have been bowls of bits and pieces put together. Minimal cooking and effort required. To make life even simpler I also visited the freezer section in my local Aldi and found some really neat frozen bean mixes that added some crunch and protein to my stir fries.
I keep reminding myself, as well as many of my clients, that neither cooking nor eating have to be complicated. The ever increasing information and an evolving science on nutrition can make this basic act of survival feel so complicated that it ends up feeling overwhelming. When it does, it is good to come back to basics.
This salad recipe is one of those simple throw together meals. It looks pretty perhaps, but truly it contains some readily available ingredients you can get in any supermarket. Sans the nasturtium flowers perhaps(!). Way back when I first started my blog, what I wished for was to make eating vegetables to be fun, exiting and accessible. Far, far from the boring, bland and punishing dieting type recipes and mentality. This Summer Salad recipe hits on those intentions pretty well, I think.
Before I share the recipe with you I also want to share with you two wonderful new cookbooks I bought this Spring which I am still slowly making my way through. Because I seldom cook from recipes, or at least following one to the letter, I’ve been looking for some new cookbooks that can teach me some new technique as well as inspire my kitchen creativity. In Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat and Lateral Cooking by Nikki Segnit, I’ve found exactly what I was looking for.
Both books are pretty extensive, but written in a very accessible style. Cooking is a tactile experience that actually lends itself pretty well to creative curiosity, providing we are not in a state of “hangry” or survival mode. If you are looking to ignite your kitchen creativity, I can highly recommend these two.
Now let’s get on with the salad recipe!
Summer Salad With a Mustard Vinaigrette
½ small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
2 – 3 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves, washed
1/3 cucumber, diced
½ avocado, stone removed & diced
A large handful fresh raspberries, washed
50g feta cheese
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
5 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste
Bring some lightly salted water to the boil, then add the broccoli florets and cook for 1-2 min until bright green. Remove from the stovetop, drain the hot water and give the cooked florets a quick rinse in cold water to let them cool down and remain somewhat crunchy.
To make the dressing; place all the ingredients except salt in a small glass jar and then give it a good shake until everything is evenly dispersed. Taste and add a little bit of salt and black pepper if you wish.
Place the mixed salad leaves on a large plate, add the cucumber, avocado, broccoli florets and raspberries. Crumble the feta over the salad and then scatter some pumpkin seeds. Decorate with some edible flowers, if you have some!
Pour over some dressing and serve immediately.
This salad is best eaten once plated up. The dressing will keep a few days, stored in the glass jar in the fridge.
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 with Raw Raspberry Chia Jam
Serves 2-4 depending on the sizes of the serving glasses you use
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.
It looks like Spring has finally arrived. Yay! And I have a confession to make… I’ve just ordered my very first gardening book. Oh my, I wonder where this is all heading? Those green fingers seem to have skipped a generation and I doubt I’ll ever be an avid and as an accomplished gardener like my grand-mother, who at 94 is still out in the garden keeping it weed-free and flourishing. Perhaps it’s the fact that the sun has finally come out to play and the rise in temperature that has brought on the temptation of having a crack at growing (well at least trying) something edible? I’m not sure really.
The more you delve into eating REAL food, packaged as nature intended, the more it make sense to take care where that food comes from. So having a go at trying to grow at least a few of the vegetables you eat makes sense. Well worth a go anyway. Since I’ve always maintained that I would starve to death if I had to rely on my own home grown stuff, I’m grateful if I manage to grow enough for a meal or two. Time will tell.
Since the temperatures has finally risen into double figures, smoothies are back in! I eat them all the time, but even more so in the Spring and Summer months. Especially as a quick meal when I’m pressed for time. Or as a quick breakfast. Or sometimes as a recovery snack after a heavy work out or training session.
Then I usually add some extra protein to it. I have found it to be the breakfast which will keep me full the longest. If heading out for a couple of hours on the bike or a hike in the mountain, this is what I start off my day with. Everyone is different though, so test out a few different options to find out what works for you. Is it the old reliable bowl of porridge? A power smoothie? Or perhaps an egg based breakfast?
My smoothies almost always contain two base ingredients. Banana and avocado. The banana serves as a great natural sweetener and the avocado gives it a creamy texture. Avocados also offers amazing health benefits being a great source of monounsaturated fat, potassium, B-vitamin and fibre. In the previous fat phobic era, avocados would have been considering a no-no. However we now know that the type of fat in avocados are easily used as energy, can actually lower cholesterol and are also important for both good skin health and proper brain function. Healthy fats also keeps us full for longer.
I first started adding avocados to my smoothies a few years ago after reading a book about raw food for children. Before that it had never really occurred to me. This was obviously before the constant influence and inspiration of Instagram! Since then they are my constant smoothie companion. It makes so much sense to use them as apart from the lovely texture you get, they will also balance the naturally occurring sugar from the fruit, and make it a more slow release form of energy. Hence it will keep you full for longer.
Having smoothies are an excellent way of increasing your intake of raw food. Something a lot of people could do with. Including at least some raw food in your daily food intake will maximise your intake of live enzymes and nutrients in an unadulterated way. Raw food is literally alive and hence makes us feel more vibrant! An added bonus to making smoothies are you don’t need any fancy gadgets to make them either. A simple hand blender (immersion blender) will do the job perfectly. Simple to clean too.
This smoothie is super decadent and would also work as a healthy dessert. Or a fancy pants lunch, eaten outside while enjoying the beautiful Spring weather. Bound to lift the spirits every time! Naturally dairy, gluten and refined sugar free.
Peanut Butter & Raspberry Smoothie
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries, thaw if using frozen
1/2 ripe avocado
1 medium sized banana, roughly chopped
1 tbsp raw cacao powder – raw will give you the highest nutritional value, but for flavour you can use a god quality cocoa powder instead
1 tbsp pure peanut butter
250 ml milk of choice
Bee pollen, fresh raspberries or cacao nibs to top – Optional
Place banana, avocado, peanut butter and cacao powder in the blender container. Add the milk of your choice. Blend everything until smooth and creamy. In a glass, mash your fresh raspberries then add your peanut butter smoothie mix on top. Garnish with a few raspberries, some cacao nibs or bee pollen. Eat outside in sunshine with a spoon. Enjoy feeding all your senses for immediate pleasure and satisfaction 🙂