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!
Finally… Can you smell it? Spring! I am so excited for warmer weather and brighter days. The fact the days are longer now, after the clock’s recent change has helped my mood a lot. The other weekend I got inspired and cleared out a space for some vegetable growing, and then the following day (in the pouring rain) I drove to town to buy some timber to make a raised bed.
This will be my fourth year of growing vegetables. I decided to build a simple 2 x 1 m frame, which should be easy to dismantle the day I leave here, yet should give me ample space to grow some root vegetables for this coming season. The property also has an old disused green house so I’m hoping I will be able to have some tomatoes and a few herbs like coriander and basil in there. Next up, getting some manure + ordering some seeds. All the exciting stuff. It truly is such a rewarding thing to grow your own veggies. It is definitely an adventure which has helped me fostering some patience as well as trust.
You can’t will the seeds out of the ground. It takes nurturing, patience and a tad skill. Such a good metaphor for life in general I think…
On a totally different note though, the recipe I am sharing this week is one of those comforting, budget friendly and very versatile ones. And it is one I’ve eaten on repeat over the past few months. These long cold AND wet months had me craving foods that were more stodgy, warm and nourishing. As well as that I have also had a desire to eat other high energy foods like oats (especially in combination with sugar and butter…). I am beginning to feel ready to have some lighter meals soon, with more greens and raw foods. Maybe you are too?
However I thought now would still be a good time to share this recipe, whilst we are still note truly there yet, and if you are like me, feeling the pinch of heating bills… then something that is budget friendly and that can be made any day of the week from mostly store cupboard ingredients is hopefully welcomed!
I’m not sure “casserole” is actually a good name for this dish as it is more like a vegetarian bolognese and even a little meaty in texture. It could even be a good one to try out for Meat Free Monday or to serve those avid meat eaters, whom you’d like to introduce to some more plant based dishes.
Then on the other hand, how and with what you serve it is, entirely up to you. I have so far had it with rice, pasta, a fried egg (like in the picture) and with roasted sweet potatoes. I would imagine it can pair with “normal” roasted potatoes, even mash, or as a side dish to baked fish. One basic dish. Many options!
Lentil & Mushroom Casserole
1 tin chopped tomatoes
250g fresh mushrooms (I like chestnut mushrooms)
1 large yellow onion, peeled & chopped finely
5 cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped finely
1 red or yellow pepper, washed & chopped finely
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt & Black pepper to season
Approx. 1 cup cooked lentils such as beluga or puy lentils
Start with cooking the lentils. Exact measurements aren’t really important here, so measure out 3/4 cup. Then rinse well before placing in a saucepan and adding enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch. I usually add a bay leaf or two to this also.
Bring the lentils to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. If you let them boil to hard they will just cook apart. Simmer for about 35-40 min until they squeeze soft between your fingers. Drain, rinse and set aside.
Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan. Add chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the chopped pepper and mushrooms and saute for another few minute or two until soft-ish. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for another minute.
Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the cooked lentils and the spices. Give it all a really good stir and then bring to a lively simmer for 20 min until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste.
Let cool slightly and then serve with your choice of side (as suggested above) + some greens. Oh and some grated Parmesan is totally yum to add grated on top. If that’s your thing.
Do you what is really challenging? Taking photos of red and dark coloured foods! I don’t know if it is just my camera that is struggling with the light / contrast or if there’s something else contributing, which I don’t know about… It just feels a little unfair as the pictures doesn’t truly do the dish justice.
This salad is kind of a classic pairing, beetroot and feta. I bet if you Goolgle it you’ll find hundreds of ideas for a salad like this. A very similar recipe to this one, was one of the first recipes that I added to my first website. But when I moved on to this website, I left it behind.
So here’s a new version!
Speaking of Googling recipes… Sometimes when I see a new ingredient that I would like to try make something with, this is exactly what I do. You usually get endless results which = endless ideas to try. Is this how you approach it too? Or are you more inclined to pull out a recipe book and decide that you are going to try a new recipe and then shop accordingly?
When I first decided to extend my recipe repertoire I went looking for cookbooks (back then I just had a few…), then I would pick a recipe that looked good, shop the ingredients and then get stuck in. At one stage I decided to learn one new one / week.
To be honest that is probably an enough amount to focus on, because it takes a bit of mental energy to learn a new recipe. It is so easy to try to do everything all at once, but that’s often what makes it so challenging to then make changes that stick.
Our lives are so full already, which is why it is so much easier to stick to what we already know. I think this is why we can get stuck in food ruts too. It’s safe, easy and convenient. Like I said, our lives are already full and learning new things requires mental energy. And when my life is way off, I don’t usually cook at all… But that’s an entirely different story… They don’t call it convenience food for nothing, do they?
Before I share this recipe with you, I want to invite you to think of some other beetroot combinations to test out.
One of my favourite books for getting creative when it comes to flavour pairings is The Flavour Thesaurus. It is a small book, well worth adding to your cookbook collection / kitchen. This book as helped me get a lot braver and creative when it comes to testing out new flavours and food combinations. As if this book was not enough, I recently invested in this book called Kitchen Creativity. So far I have only flickered through it, but I think it will be prove a worthwhile purchase 🙂
So if you want to change this salad up, consider pairing beetroot with either fresh orange + some fried halloumi, or some crisp thinly sliced apples + some goat’s cheese / blue cheese with walnuts.
If you cook the beetroot (leave skin on so they bleed less) you will end up with a different texture. A lot softer. Or you can use it grated, raw like I did in this salad.
Now let’s get to today’s recipe!
Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Puy Lentil Salad
2 large beetroots (or 4 small ones), peeled & cut into small quarters
2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
100g dried puy lentils (beluga lentils are fine too), rinsed
100g good quality feta cheese
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
A handful of green salad leaves, washed & dried
Olive oil, for roasting
4 tbsp good quality olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp clear honey
sea salt & black pepper to season
Heat oven to 180°C. Place your quartered beetroot on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and then scatter the cumin seeds over. Season with sea salt and black pepper and then toss it all with your hands to that the beetroot are well coated in seasoning and oil.
Roast for about 35-40 min until soft.
To cook the lentils, rinse them well to remove any dust as well as pick through to make sure there’s no stones in there. Then place them in a large saucepan filled with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 30-35 min until they are soft but still hold their shape. When they mush easily with a squeeze between your fingers, they are done. Drain, rinse and drain well.
You can serve this salad warm or cold. Since it is still cold here, at this time of the year I would personally prefer it warm. The warm lentils will make a nice contrast to the cold salty feta and the sweet and crunchy pomegranate seeds.
Mix the ingredients for the dressing together and season to taste. Add the dressing to the warm lentils.
On a plate add some salad leaves, the warm lentil and some roasted beetroot. Then scatter some crumbled feta and some pomegranate seeds. Tuck in!
Normally I post new blogs on Sunday afternoon, but with this recent spell of snow(!) and winter weather I decided that I might as well post this as I write it.
And after a little hiatus I posted this blog earlier this week, so there you go. I know I’m not the greatest at consistency. I think variety is more my style.
Anyhow, with this recent weather though I was lucky and did not experience the full brunt of Storm Emma, (also known as the Beast from the East), I did end up stuck at home for two days which meant lots of hot drinks, blazing fires and plenty of time to work on the computer…
Whilst contemplating if I should dress up and take the 5 min walk to the shop or if I should in fact stay put, finish writing this blog post and then chill with a cup of this pink beauty and the latest book I am reading in front of the fire, the rain is slowly melting the snow outside.
It was definitely beautiful whilst lasting and reminded me of winters growing up back in Sweden. Yet I am so ready for Spring now!
Ready for longer brighter days, ready to prepare some raised beds and order some vegetable seeds and ready for a new season to arrive.
While you are waiting though, enjoy this warming drink and there are a good few new recipes lined up, coming your way over the coming weeks. More warming dishes to enjoy, whilst we are waiting and contemplating.
I got the idea for this Beetroot Latte from Instagram. Because giving proper attribute to the original creator is important and the right thing to do, I went back searching for whom I might have gotten it from, but when I typed in #beetrootlatte I got like 9000 hits! So maybe this isn’t a truly original idea after all…
Since I am such a cardamom fan, I loved cardamom added here. If that’s not your cup of tea (pardon the pun) then you could try another variation that I made some time ago which was a hot chocolate type drink, with some beetroot powder + a pinch of chili.
Dried beetroot powder is available in health food shops. It is kind of sweet and a great way to colour foods naturally.
1 cup of plant milk of choice (measure the milk out with the cup you intend to drink from)
½ tsp dried beetroot powder
½ tbsp. sweetener of choice – I like honey or maple
¼ tsp ground cardamom
Add milk and the rest of the ingredients to a small heavy based saucepan. Gently heat your drink whilst whisking all the ingredient together. Just before reaching boiling point remove from heat and serve.
If you want to pretty it up you can add some edible dried rose petals!
P.S I have *finally* signed up to Lightroom and started to play around with presets (kind of like filters). Please bear with me a as I am learning this new creative skill!
For the month of January I partook in a “Buy Nothing but Consumables Challenge”. Considering that my finances put a natural constrained on any purchasing desires, it wasn’t a massive task to get through, but even so I still found it an interesting experience and it did give me some insights and a new awareness.
This challenge was headed up by the lovely Kathy Peterman from simpleup.me whom I crossed paths with a few years ago in another online programme. Ever since then I have been a huge fan of Kathy’s work and she has inspired me to get decluttering, as well as now becoming more intentional with my spending. Though I can’t say I have been overly mad with my shopping and spending habits over the past few years, it is still surprising how you can find things to buy, that you don’t really need…
Having lived in a small space for the past 8 years, did mean I couldn’t store an endless amount of stuff, yet I still had boxes of stuff stored, and having not have to move for y I didn’t have that much need to go through any of it either. However, luckily I had already started on my declutter journey before I had to pack up all my belongings and move last year. Both when packing and when unpacking, I tried to be ruthless and got rid of a lot of stuff that I had stored for years, and even now with more space didn’t feel like I wanted to use them, so off they went. Including some of my books! I love books, so letting some of them go was a bit hard, but since I seem to continue to add more, it is definitely good to let them circulate. They may make someone else happy now that I’ve had my time with them.
My decluttering is continuing this month with “the minimalist game” which essentially mean getting rid of 1 item on the first, then 2 on the 2nd and so on. I think at that pace I’ll have no belongings left… so I am sticking to one item / day, which I think I’ll be able to do. There’s definitely still more stuff that haven’t been used in the last six months or so, that I am sure I don’t need , as well as stuff that’s well worn out.
So then what has this recipe to do with my current (and ongoing decluttering project?), well this recipe is one of my “fridge raid” type recipes. As well as the “Buy Nothing Challenge” , I also challenged myself to spend some time at the beginning of January to use up what I actually had in the cupboards, rather than buying more and as a result ending up with food waste.
That said, kitchen creativity does require that you keep a couple of basics to hand and then add fresh produce as you go along. As I tend to like warm foods when the weather is cold, I have been eating dishes like this one many times over the past month. Stir-fries, like this one are almost like warm salads. Almost. Or at least something in between a salad and a curry. Let’s not get to hung up on the details shall we?
Cauliflower is a totally underrated vegetable in my opinion. It is cheap, incredibly nutritious and very versatile. Most people (in Ireland at least) just boil it into mush and then serve it as a sad side dish. Which is totally unfair and doesn’t let cauliflower blossom in its own right.
In my humble opinion cauliflower is best enjoyed like this, finely chopped and a stir-fried or roasted, either way with some spices and curry spices seems to have a particular affinity with this veggie.
Please also note that though I think it is cool that cauliflower has gotten this new appreciation through it being used as “cauli-rice”, I still feel like if you really want to eat rice with your curry, stir-fry, what ever, do it! Taste and satisfaction is as important to any meal as the nutritional content. I much rather that you enjoy this veggie for its own beautiful glory, instead of seeing it as a substitute for something else. Being a consolation prize does not make anyone feel happier about themselves…
Curried Cauliflower Stirfry
1 small head of cauliflower, leaves removed, washed & roughly chopped
2 tbsp melted coconut oil or olive oil
2 tbsp curry spice powder of choice
10 dried apricots, chopped into chunks
A handful of pecan nuts, roughly chopped
3 tbsp of pomegranate seeds
A handful of fresh coriander, stems removed and leaves torn
Start with getting your ingredients chopped and ready. Then heat a frying pan, add the oil and when warm (not smoking!) add the curry and fry off for a min or two, until lightly fragrant.
Add the cauliflower to the pan and stir until well coated. Keep on medium heat and keep tossing and turning to avoid any burning. You want the cauliflower to be heated through but still have some crunch left to it. This will take 3-4 minutes.
Add the dried apricots and the pecan nuts and keep warm for another minute or so.
Add the pomegranate seeds and the coriander leaves just before serving.
Personally I prefer this warm, as a stir-fry type dish, but if you have leftovers they should still be good to go the following day.
*** This recipe is pretty basic and lend itself to endless variations. Like swapping the apricots for raisins (or leave out if you don’t like sweet things in savoury dishes), try a few mint leaves or fresh parsley. Maybe some orange segments?
It can be serves as a light meal as it is, or add some protein of choice (chicken, fish if you eat meat or perhaps some chickpeas or tofu if you don’t). Adding some cooked quinoa will also help make it into a more substantial meal.
You can of course swap the pecan nuts for any other nut or seed too. Feel free to use your own creativity!
A final note on cauliflower… Don’t fall for the marketing trick of buying it pre packed and grated. Seriously! I used to do in my food processor, but now I am to lazy to even pull that one out (more washing up!) with a half decent knife you will chop it in one minute tops! Here is a rant I had about pre packed cauli-rice.