Hot Chocolate for Cold Days

Hot Chocolate for Cold Days

 

This year I have decide to try something different. Rather than focusing on moulding my life into the way I “think it should be”, I have decide to “take action without attachment to outcome”.  Only a few weeks into the year and my life is already giving me plenty of opportunities to practice this intention. In reality letting go of attachment to outcome means you also have to be ok when you get a no, and as much as I am telling myself that I am ok with a no to some of my asks when I look a little closer I probably aren’t… So I just keep reminding myself of something Brené Brown said, “The courage is in the action.”

Instead I get to practice sitting with my feelings, of disappointment or even anger.  I also get the opportunity to practice courage and trust. (Or should it be “the courage to trust”?).  Amidst this experiment of trying to live with the openness to the FLOW of life, I found this article by Sharon Salzberg, on one of my favourite websites On Being.  It spoke to some of the ambivalence I do feel in making a choice like this. Because if you are not actively pursuing your dream life are you letting yourself go and giving up? Or am I just trying to give up on the suffering holding on to an expectation of a specific outcome is giving me?

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This train of thought lead me to another observation this week. One of my colleagues in one of the FB forums that I am in shared a great resource for other things to do when we notice a desire to eat even though we are not physically hungry. I definitely things it is great to have lists of ideas of other thing to do rather than using food as a coping mechanism, even though in the journey to make peace with food there still have to be an unconditional permission to eat.  Otherwise we may still end up subconsciously restrict, which can then backfire into over-eating later.

The thing is though if we move directly from noticing that we are reaching for food, without pausing to check in for what it is we are currently emotionally experiencing and move right on to the next non-eating distraction, we miss the chance to see what’s underneath the habitual impulse to reach for food. In the pause we can notice what is there, and follow up with a questions of “What do I need right now?

Depending on the emotion you may discover a different need. Sadness may require the comforting from another human being, or a pet (they are my personal favourites). Happiness may require simply some revelling in, because it can be oh-so-fleeting.

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Boredom is a particular interesting one.

To be honest, I’m not sure if dealing with boredom through distraction, eating or otherwise is the best strategy. If we can simply be with it, boredom can open doors to a whole world of inner discoveries. Or we may discover that it is simply a passing state and part of our human experience.

One day during this week I noticed my need for comfort. Not as a way to deal with a particular emotion, more like a way of taking care of myself. A self care ritual of sorts.  Comfort eating get such a bad rap, because it is seen like a way numbing out, escapism and sometimes as punishment even. Which may be true. However to me it is only a problem if we comfort eat in a way that doesn’t leave us feeling comfortable and nourished by neither the food nor the act of eating.

This recipe is one that brings me comfort on wet, cold and grey January days. Especially when consumed in front of the fire, with a good book in hand, dog in lap (which is optional + a little risky considering the hot liquid…).

It is also one that I intend to include, or some version thereof, in my first recipe book. Which I have still no idea of how or when it will come out. Before the end of the year at least…!

So here’s to comfort foods and comfort eating that leaves you feeling comforted, satisfied and well nourished.

 

Spicy Hot Chocolate for Colder Days

Makes about 10 portions, depending on how much mix you use for your cup

5 tbsp raw cacao powder

2-3 tbsp coconut sugar or demerara sugar (or you can leave this out and sweeten with maple syrup / honey to taste when you have the drink made up)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

¼ tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp ground dried ginger

¼ tsp ground cloves – optional

¼ tsp grated nutmeg

 

Place all ingredients in a clean, dry glass jar and mix until they are all well combined.

To make your hot spicy chocolate drink;

Measure out your milk of choice (cow’s milk or plant milk). For practicality I tend to pour the milk first into the cup I intend to drink from, to get the right volume.

Then add the milk to a small saucepan. Allow roughly a tbsp. of chocolate powder per cup/ person. Add the chocolate powder to the milk. Whisk rapidly as you are gently heating up the milk.

Keep whisking to prevent the milk from burning at the bottom of the pan. Avoid boiling, as if you are using plant based milk it may separate.

Your hot chocolate drink is ready just before it reaches boiling point. If you didn’t add any sugar to your cacao mix, now is a good time to add it to the hot drink. Honey or maple syrup are really delicious.

Pour it back into your cup of choice for serving and enjoy!

I love marshmallows, so this time I piled them high. (Not homemade)

comforting hot chocolate recipe

P.S I’ve invited Spring into my home. whilst waiting for it to take hold outside…

Wholehearted Living

 

Fig & Walnut Salad

Fig & Walnut Salad

 

I feel like I’m behind with writing blog posts… Again!

I had another post idea lined up but since it hasn’t been written up yet, I think it will have to wait until the New Year. Who wants to think about batch cooking and meal planning at the moment anyway, right?!

It can be a challenge to balance out all the heavy meat (if you eat meat) based dishes, together with all the lovely Christmas cakes, minced pies and chocolates we tend to feast on throughout the month of December. It may even feel like you “have to eat it all”, because these are seasonal foods meaning we won’t see them again for another year. A dreaded sense of scarcity sets in…

It is all too easy to fall into this scarcity trap.

I do that too sometimes when I find a food I really like and that I haven’t had for awhile.

There is a beauty to seasonality though and that is the fact that because some foods are in season at different times of the year, we get the opportunity to savour them at that time. However, given the current world we live in, if we truly want something very particular chances are we can get it, or make it ourselves.

Letting go of the feeling of “having to eat it all now before it is gone”, instead shifting it to a place of attunement and gratitude may help us savour these foods mindfully, instead of just wolfing them down not actually tasting them or enjoying them at all. Letting go of eating just for the sake of eating, can open up space to have a really satisfactory eating experience and usually when we have that we don’t tend to go looking for more.

radicchio

Anyway… My intention for this blog post was to give you some inspiration when it comes to adding some green stuff to the Christmas menu.

I’m sharing this Fig & Walnut Salad + I have linked to a few of my other winter favourites from the past as well as from my favourite bloggers around the world.

Whether you will be the brave one introducing a new dish on the 24th / 25th or if you decide to try some new plant based dishes between Christmas and New Year, just to lighten things up a bit, I do hope you decide to give some of these a go! Vegetables are here to be celebrated… Any time of year!

 

Fig & Walnut Salad with Goat’s Cheese

Serves 4

1 small head of radicchio, finely shredded

4-5 stems of kale (I used the purple variety here but green curly kale is fine)

4-6 fresh figs, depending on size

100g goat’s cheese (get a variety you like, or leave it out)

A handful of walnuts, roughly chopped

A handful of fresh blueberries

2 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. clear runny honey

½ tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped

 

Remove the outside leaves of your radicchio and then cut into fine strips. Remove stems from the kale and chop finely.

Place the cut kale, drizzle over the olive oil and then gently massage it to soften the leaves. Add the shredded radicchio to the bowl.

Cut the pit off the fresh figs and then make two slits across the middle. Place a chunk of goats cheese in the middle of the fig then place under a hot grill for a few min until cheese is lightly golden.

Place some of the salad on each serving plate. Add a grilled fig each on top of the salad. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar and some runny honey over the fig and salad. Finish off by scatter some chopped walnuts, chopped rosemary and a few fresh blueberries over each plate.

Eat and enjoy!

** If you don’t want to include goat’s cheese, then cut the figs into smaller quarters instead**

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If you are looking for some more green inspiration for the Christmas table, or any other day for that matter, here are some of my favourites!

Past winter salads from my blog:

Kale Salad with Orange-Tahini Dressing

Black Quinoa Salad with Kale, Apples & Crunchy Hazelnuts (you can leave out the quinoa if you make it as a side)

A Festive Salad (with Brussels Sprouts)

Rainbow Slaw with Mustard Dressing

Red Cabbage Salad with Blueberries & Coconut

 

And here are some festive recipes from some of my favourite food bloggers that I’ve been following for a long time!

Like this Blood Orange & Kamut Salad from Cashew Kitchen

THIS recipe from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks changed my view on Brussels Sprouts forever. Super simple too!

An old recipe from Green Kitchen Stories with Saffron

And finally another recipe from GKS which is a little bit more like a main course.

Rainbow Slaw with Mustard Dressing

Rainbow Slaw with Mustard Dressing

This week I will be sharing a salad recipe that kind of feels like a seasonal transition from Winter to Spring / Summer.

It is a salad recipe, and it is a raw food dish. But, it made from what I would consider Winter vegetables. Root veg and purple (red) cabbage is more the types of veg that appears in my pantry and fridge during the colder months.

Though since they are still around, I thought I would share this recipe that I also shared as my guest contribution over on The Honest Project awhile back.

And in the name of honesty, I will admit that I am also low on some freshly styled recipes. Not short of ideas though so hopefully next week I will have some time to get back playing in the kitchen!

I can’t wait, especially since I recently purchased an extension arm for my tripod so that I can start creating some recipe videos and flatlays. It may save me from standing on the counter top all the time…

The past month have been pretty intense with finishing up a new video series on Food, Mood & Mindful Eating that I am hoping to share with you all really soon + both doing some personal inner work participating in Whole Detox (Come join us for the October one!)

As well as finishing up my latest professional development training in Mindful Eating. And that one has been really enriching too taking my previous skills to a new level. I am so looking forward to integrate it all in the coming weeks and months and to share it with you all!

But now, let’s have fun with this colourful recipe 🙂

This recipe is my spin on variations that I’ve seen around over the years. I feel like this recipe reflects my cooking style (and maybe even my personality to a certain degree), as it is colourful, straightforward and rooted. Like a rainbow.

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This slaw is a great Winter salad, (or for this time of year also called the “hungry gap”) when getting fresh green leaves can be challenging, simply because they are not in season.

Rainbow Slaw with Mustard Dressing

Serves 2

¼ head of celeriac, peeled and finely shredded ¼ head of red cabbage, finely shredded (I tend to use a mandolin for this)
2-3 medium sized carrots, peeled and finely shredded (if you can get carrots of different colours even better!)
A handful of pomegranate seeds
For the dressing:
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
5 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 tsp clear honey, local if possible
Sea salt & black pepper to season

 

Start by washing, peeling and shredding all your vegetables. Then set aside.
In a large bowl, this could be the serving bowl, add all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk until smooth.

Taste and adjust to your preference. A little bit more sweetness? Need more lemon? Use your own tastebuds to guide you.

Add the shredded vegetable to the bowl with the dressing. Gently toss until the dressing and vegetables are intermingling nicely.

Add the pomegranate seeds before serving. The salad will keep for a few days in the fridge, covered.

colourful winter salad

 

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