Lentil & Mushroom Casserole

Lentil & Mushroom Casserole

 

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!

straightforward nutrition

 

Lentil & Mushroom Casserole

Serves 4

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.

 

straightforward nutrition

Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Puy lentil Salad

Cumin Roasted Beetroot & Puy lentil Salad

 

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?

straightforward nutrition

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 CreativitySo 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

Serves 2

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

 

Dressing:

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!

winter salad

 

Beetroot Latte

Beetroot Latte

 

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…

Snow

Irish Winter, Storm Emma

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.

Beetroot Latte

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.

 

Beetroot Latte

Serves 1

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!

Irish winter

Words from My Heart

Words from My Heart

This blog post will contain some words from my heart, as well as lots of swirling thoughts captured in print. Whilst I have been working on putting together a post about how our experiences with food, eating and our bodies as it relates to our (hi)stories, childhood and so on influences our relationship with same today, I found that for some reason it seemed like a challenge to put it all into words. I am still not sure why, as I have previously shared my own story on this topic here.

Anyway, I decided to pause it and write a blog post about many of the thoughts that have been swirling around my mind for what now seems like ages. Maybe I just need to get some of these words out there, in order to peel back and to keep writing about all the things that I plan to write about this year. So yeah, please see this one as an overarching intention of what may be yet to come.

 

Life is a journey of unexpected twists and turns. And we are all constantly growing and learning…

 

Last week I had the privilege to get up and speak about the line of my own work within the field of Nutritional Therapy, even though I was excited the opportunity on one hand, I was pretty nervous about it too. Why? Well apart from the ever present inner critic and a touch of imposter syndrome I was a little apprehensive about my choice of topic too.

It is rare that we speak about the prevalence of Eating Disorders and disordered eating, as well as the harm restriction and dieting can do. Yet I feel strongly that within a profession where food is used as the healing modality, it is more important than for anyone else that we understand the dynamics around eating behaviour.

I apologies in advance if this blog ends up being somewhat scattered and incoherent (as I won’t do a lot of editing before posting) as I am trying to let some of the many threads that have been  swirling around come together and weave an new picture.

My journey into Nutritional Therapy and becoming a nutritional professional has been windy and is ever unfolding. My professional path has become part of my personal path, yet when I was 20 this type of work was  NOT my intention for my professional path. My personal struggle with food and eating eventually lead me to this profession when I was looking for other things to earn a living from, rather than shovelling horse shit for the rest of my working life…

I will be honest and admit that I wholeheartedly believe in the power of food as medicine with nutritional supplements and herbs to heal, repair and restore. It would be my personal preference to use natural medicine as much as possible, yet I feel we are lucky to have the opportunity of drugs as well as lifesaving surgery if this is what is needed.

Over the weekend just passed my other colleagues who also presented on the day showed us some incredible case studies of healing happening with the use of natural medicines, often in cases where the orthodox medicine had written off a restoration of health as impossible.

 

However in the area of health and healing nothing is ever black or white… It’s never one thing or the other, but usually more like an interconnected web of many layers that interplay.

Over the past two years or so my own work as has changed because I have learned new things and been exposed to new teachings and approaches.  Much because of this I really want to take a stand this year and get cleared in my own message and with my own voice.

This is something I am continuously working on, and I definitely feel like I haven’t gotten it right, yet. Consider it a work in process. Hence these words from my heart are simply a part of this unfolding process.

 

In the presentation that I shared, one of my first slides where the question “Can we truly promote healthy eating without having a healthy relationship with food and eating?”

Personally I don’t think so. Using nutrition as a healing modality may require some dietary changes, often to improve quality, variety and nutrient density. That is all fine. Especially when it is done together with a qualified practitioner who works with you, and your body. The issues arise when people start to self-restrict without any particular reasons other than following the latest nutrition fads and trends. It becomes an issue when we follow strict external rules, regardless if it may be points or calorie / macro counting without honouring our own body’s specific cues and needs.

Because, we already have what we need. Our own inner wisdom. Yet if you look around the messages you see, literally everywhere, is that somehow our bodies are not trustworthy. (I often wonder how we got to this place of distrust in ourselves, as somehow we’ve evolved and survived as a species up until quiet recently without questioning it much… But that’s maybe a question for another post.)

Another issue is when the intentional pursuit of weight loss is used as a panacea to create health. Controlling the amount of food as well as the type of food, is used as a way to try to control body size, health and even life.

 

About two years ago I came across the Health At Every Size ™ movement. It has changed everything for me and learning to navigate this new information as well as this new lens to look through is much of what this year is all about for me. How do I integrate this info with what I know about nutritional medicine?

 

Health At Every Size or HAES for short, is a movement that values ALL BODIES, and that all bodies are worthy of treatment with respect and care.

 

It is also a paradigm which looks at health beyond nutrition and even beyond health behaviours. Through HAES we get to look at health through the lens of social justice. This is what changes everything.

Though I never prescribed any crazy diets to help people lose weight, nor was I particularly interested in weighing them, (I don’t weigh myself for God’s sake!), I were part of some well-intentioned weight loss programmes early on in my career.  My first round of business cards even had the words “Lose weight without dieting” on them. (I since cut whatever few were left up in pieces. )This was before I knew that any intention of actively pursuing measures to alter our body size IS dieting.

Dieting is one of the most prevalent pre cursors to develop eating disorders. And if you don’t go on to develop a full blown eating disorder, you most certainly end up with disordered eating behaviours.

HAES not only shines a light on the detriments of weight loss pursuits and dieting, it also brings to light the social justice side of things, when it comes to health and how often the individual is blamed on failure to keep their body under control, if it does not conform to society’s norms, rather than looking at the larger picture of other Determinants of Health and inequalities in our society that contribute to our overall health and wellbeing.

health at every size

From this journey of venturing into learning more about HAES, I am also learning more about weight stigma and fatphobia. Both which play such a big part in why intentional weight loss pursuits are a form of oppression. And of course, denying yourself to eat when you are physically hungry just because you have reached your limits on points that day is a personal attack on yourself. A mini trauma, which is sending a message to your body that it is not worthy of one of the most fundamental things for life – food.

When we zoom out and look at the other well-meaning nutritional interventions for disease preventions, very few actually talk about the inequalities. That not all people have access to good quality foods, not the skills or means to buy them in order to create nutritious meals for themselves and their family.

We are not necessarily thinking about the people who are fearful for taking a walk in their neighbourhood, when we ourselves are feeling guilty for missing a gym session… Yet the message portrayed when it comes to health pursuits is often that of personal responsibility, and those who are not doing things necessary of this pursuit are often seen as lazy.

 

Why is that?

Is it because the idea of thinness = health is so entrenched in our culture?

Yet it is simply not true. Which is one of the messages of HAES.

Our worth as a human being is not based on how we look or what we eat, surely? I think we can do better than that.

 

The other is the take home message that our inherent worthiness in not tied to our health or body size. I don’t think I have ever looked at someone and thought that it was. It is not how I was raised. Yet when you become aware of this insidious cultural insinuation, you can’t close your eyes to the message that it is so, which is everywhere. Why else would dieting be promoted all over the place? Oh yeah, aside from the fact that it DOES sell and is a multi billion dollar industry of course…

I also can’t see why prescribing weigh loss as a cure all is so prevalent? Aside from the fact that it doesn’t work, so many people are nutrient deficient and prescribing restriction seems counter intuitive to me. It is already hard to get what we need from our diets, so why would be want to restrict them further? What about prescribing diversity (if this is within the individual’s means) together with some curiosity and an explanation of the illusion of finding the “right diet” and the importance of listening to you own body’s response to the food you eat?

So really, what is my intention with this lengthy rant? Well maybe it is to state that no I don’t think we can promote ‘healthy eating’ without at the same time promote a healthy relationship to food, eating and body (I feel another deep dive will come on this topic in the future too) , it is also highlight the inequalities in our society and the injustice that is done when we hand out all the blame on individuals for “not taking care of themselves better”. That is just unkind and unfair.

Long story short; we can’t really get to the root of healing individual’s eating struggles without at the same time working on understanding the root cause of what’s driving this struggle, which is the Diet Culture that we all live in.

 

So the work, which is what I have now woken up to and to the visionaries and frontline warriors to whom I have the immense privilege to learn from, is to simultaneously dismantle Diet Culture.

 

And finally… (almost 2000 words later) what my ultimate message from this lengthy blog post is: It is to declare that I am dropping out of this Diet Culture. I don’t want to participate nor do I want to be contributing to this shame fuelled oppressive system.

To quote Maya Angelou, “When you know better, do better”. 

So this is what I am trying to do now. When I do now know better.

 

Curried Cauliflower Stir-Fry

Curried Cauliflower Stir-Fry

 

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.

curried cauliflower stir-fry

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

Serves 2

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.

straightforward nutrition