Cavolo Nero Salad with a Mexican Twist

Cavolo Nero Salad with a Mexican Twist

This weekend I finally feel like I’ve hit those Autumn vibes in my kitchen. After a massive haul of fresh groceries, since my fridge was literally empty on fresh food and 2 hours of cleaning out my pantries I think I feel ready to move into the last quarter of this year. And to get cosy with woolly jumpers, fires and some hot chocolate. It’s time to pull out the soup pot and get ready for stews and soups. But before we arrive there, I thought I’d share with you this spicy creation, kind of like a bridge connecting the late summer / early Autumn with the slow arrival of shorter colder days.

I mean, of course you can still have salads in the Autumn / Winter. It doesn’t have to be all about cooked comfort foods. What I’ve come to do is this; to stick with the seasonal greens for salads. In doing so it feels natural to have salads to ensure that you still get some greens into you. Which can easily become a bit more of a struggle come winter time.

cavolo nero

 

Cavolo Nero or sometimes called Black Kale or Dinosaur Kale (due to it’s appearance) is a variety of kale that’s also pretty easy to grow yourself. Last year I did so successfully and the plants kept on giving way into the late Autumn. I love how kale just keeps growing up and sprouting out new leaves for one to cut and enjoy. It’s such a generous plant!

However this year the lovely caterpillars got stuck into it early on and I got completely outnumbered… So this year I’d have had to go and buy some instead.

This type of kale has the same amazing benefits as your regular curly kale, which contains vitamin K and C (antioxidants) as well as being a great source of easily absorbed iron and calcium. It is also a great source of chlorophyll, which is essentially the compound which plants use to absorb the light from the sun and turn it into a source of energy via photosynthesis. This is how the plants store the sunlight and make it available for us humans, through when we are eating the plant itself.

Chlorophyll has great healing properties such as wound healing and support the body’s detoxification processes. It is possible to buy liquid chlorophyll that can be added to drinking water. It is not something I have ever tried myself though.

(Source: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/health-benefits-of-chlorophyll.html)

Another thing to note is that when cooking kale, don’t over do it or you’ll lose out on the vital nutrients. A good guideline is to just cook until the colour “pops” and you have a really bright green. That will take just minutes (if even) when steaming.

The other way to make sure you get the most out of this nutritional powerhouse is to massage it in an olive oil / citrus dressing. Most of the time I use lemon juice, but for this one I went with lime for a more Mexican inspired twist.

cavolo nero salad

 

This is a raw-cooked kind of salad with the spicy roasted chickpeas being served warm and the kale raw. You can slow roast the tomatoes too if you like for more warmth as well as a deeper tomato flavour. As soon as the weather gets cold I personally need to pair my cold food with something warm, even if it just a cup of tea!

If you eat meat, I think this salad combination will work well with chicken.

 

Cavolo Nero Salad with A Mexican Twist

Serves 2

6-7 leaves of cavolo nero

1 large avocado or 2 small ones

1 cherry tomatoes

juice + zest of 1 lime

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp good quality maple syrup

sea salt & black pepper to season

FOR THE ROASTED CHICKPEAS

1 tin of chickpeas in water, drained & rinsed or 1 1/2 cup cooked from dried

1/4 tsp chipotle or cayenne pepper

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

a pinch of sea salt

 

Start by roasting the chickpeas; Preheat the oven to 175°C. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In a small bowl mix the olive oil with the spices and a pinch of salt. Add the chickpeas to the oil-spice mix and toss until well coated.

Place the chickpeas on a lined baking tray and cook for 30 min, until crisp. (Whatever you don’t end up using, can be stored in an airtight container and enjoyed as a snack on their own.)

To make the salad; Cut the stems from the kale and then chop it into bits. Mix olive oil, lime juice, lime zest and maple syrup together in a small bowl. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Add the dressing to the chopped kale and gently ‘massage’ it into the leaves with your hands.

Cut the avocado in half and remove the stone. Scoop the flesh out and cut into cubes. Halve the tomatoes.

Place kale, avocado, tomatoes and roasted chickpeas into a bowl and serve.

cavolo nero salad

What is your favourite Autumn / Winter salad combination? Please share below 🙂

 

A Purple Smoothie with Hidden Greens

A Purple Smoothie with Hidden Greens

Let the purple theme continue! And the smoothie one too, of course. Purple is my favourite colour. So of course it made total sense to create a smoothie that was purple. It seems like late summer / early autumn is the natural season for purple foods.

In the past few weeks I’ve foraged some wild blueberries / bilberries as well as  blackberries from the hedgerows out the back of where I live. On my last few walks I’ve also spied some lovely damsons and lots of elderberries. If the weekend allows I think I will go ahead and make some of this, which will make a nice one to keep any colds and flues at bay as the weather shifts. This transitional time of the year is one when I’m most likely to get sick, so it may just be a good idea to stay on top of it!

purple smoothie

 

You know, the idea for this smoothie came initially from creating something “hidden”. Not everybody enjoy drinking the colour green. So what I did was put a few green leaves with something that would blend them into another colour. I’ve mentioned before that blending red and green is usually not a brilliant idea. You might get away with a few leaves of spinach with beetroot as it is so bright, but if you’ve ever tried spinach and strawberries… you know what I am talking about.

In this smoothie it is the blackberries that are providing most of the purple colour, but the blueberries bring equal beauty in form of taste, colour and nutrients. And if you have some blackcurrants throw them into the mix too! All these berries are a great source of vitamin C which is a major contributor to a healthy immune system.

mindful eating

Purple Smoothie with Hidden Greens

Serves 1

1/2 cup of blackberries – fresh or frozen

1/2 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen

a handful of green leaves like kale (stems removed) or spinach

1/2 small avocado

1 banana

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 tbsp pea / hemp / rice protein

1/2 tsp ground caramom – optional, but delicious!

250 ml coconut water or plant milk of choice

 

Place all the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.

Serve with your favourite toppings.

Feast your eyes on the purple delight.

Drink mindfully.

And feel the nourishment spreading throughout your body!

 

purple smoothie with hidden greens

Red Cabbage Salad with Coconut & Blueberries

Red Cabbage Salad with Coconut & Blueberries

I’ve been wanting to share this recipe for the longest time ever! And I’ve also wanted to share a red cabbage recipe here forever… The funny thing is when you do food blogging though is that there’s so much timing involved. At least if you are trying to keep things somewhat seasonal. This means that sometimes I don’t  get to act on the ideas I get, or end up trying things, even shooting the recipe and then never getting around to publish it, because life gets in the way or perhaps I’m not organised enough. Or maybe it is a combination of both??!!

I don’t know when my love affair with red cabbage started, but somewhere along the way it did. Now, for me it is a seasonal vegetable and one I tend to mostly enjoy Autumn – Winter – early Spring time. I’ve never tried growing it myself for I think three reasons. One, I don’t have much space and each head takes up a lot of space. Two, they take ages to grow (and that’s hard if you are low on patience). And three, every year around this time we seem to get an infestation of little butterfly larveas that eat anything that belongs to the cabbage family. At the moment it’s particularly bad and they’ve eaten a lot of my precious kale. So if you happen to have some tips on how I can kindly ask them to go and snack else where, please share!

 

straightforward nutrition

 

This recipe may sound like an unlikely combination but it actually covers all the different taste elements in one bowl and it’s also a visual delight! Apparently most people don’t eat enough of blue / purple foods and in this bowl you get two different types straight up.

Blueberries are tasty little nutritional power-houses. Their blue plant power comes from the phytonutrient anthocyanins which have been shown to improve both memory and eyesight. They are of course delicious on their own as a simple snack, perhaps paired with a few walnuts for extra brain power potential, or on top of the morning smoothie / porridge / granola. Or you can be a little bit more “out there” and add them in a salad like I’ve done here.

Red Cabbage is one of my favourite winter vegetables. (Ok, ok, I hear you it’s still summer!) It reminds me of Christmas in Sweden and having cooked red cabbage with the Christmas ham. One of the first natural healing remedies a learnt about in college was the healing power of cabbage juice for stomach ulcers as it is rich in the amino acid glutamine as well as the cancer protective phytonutrient indole-3-carbinole. Cabbage is also rich in vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 (important for a well functioning nervous system), calcium, magnesium and manganese.

Savoy cabbage, the beautiful green leafy head one, is very popular here in Ireland and a staple part of the national dish “Bacon & Cabbage”. I will admit that it has taken me some time to really get into the swing of cabbage love, but just as with beetroot, I’m a total convert these days. If not just for the great health benefits it brings, but for the beauty if the colour alone!

If I’m cooking green cabbage I like to steam or blanche it quickly so that the colour just pops and turn out to be a really bright green. With red cabbage my preferred way of eating it is slowly cooked with spices, red onion, apple and a little bit of red wine vinegar. But that’s a little bit too wintery for now…

 

Straighforward Nutrition

 

You can keep this salad entirely raw if you like, but personally I prefer red cabbage cooked hence I am doing it here. However with this salad the finely shredded cabbage is cooked in the oven for just 15 min so it is more heated through than “cooked”. It does soften in and takes away that “rawness” that I’m not super fond of. But do as you please, this recipe is flexible enough to make sure this seemingly odd combination will still work for you!

Red Cabbage Salad with Blueberries & Coconut

Serves 2 generously

1/2 a head red cabbage, outer leaves removed and finely shredded

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup dried coconut flakes – if you buy untoasted ones you can choose yourself if you want to toast them or not

1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

4 tbsp olive oil

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 tbsp fresh lemon thyme – optional

Heat the oven to 180°C. Remove any damaged outer leaves of the head of cabbage. The shred it finely. I prefer using a cheese slicer, but if you don’t have one of those you can use a mandolin. If using a mandolin you may need to cut the cabbage into wedges. The trick is to get it as shredded as finely as possible as it makes for a much nicer texture, in my opinion at least!

Place the shredded cabbage in a bowl and add the olive oil. Gently massage the oil into the cabbage with your hands with some kind squeezes.

Then place the cabbage on a baking tray. Scatter it out evenly and then add the rosemary and lemon thyme (if using). Bake in the oven for about 15 min until warmed through and soft. Make sure you toss it about a few times in between to ensure even roasting.

*Note* If you want to make this salad entirely raw, then skip the oven step.

Once cooked, place the warm cabbage in a serving dish, drizzle some balsamic vinegar over it, add the blueberries and the coconut flakes.

Serve, enjoy, and give your brain a boost at the same time!

 

Straightforward Nutrition

Want to add more colour to your life and plate? Download the Rainbow Bowl Ebook and get creative!

 

Rainbow Smoothie

Rainbow Smoothie

Smoothies never gets old, do they? I know I’ve already shared a good few inventions here and here’s another one! Plus there’s more recipe ideas in the pipeline. I also recently bought Green Kitchen Stories’ latest recipe book, on yes you guessed it – Smoothies!

It is a beautiful book with lots of great tips and ideas for creating the tastiest and satisfying combinations you can imagine. I picked it up because it was on special offer and one can simply never have to many cookbooks for inspiration. Plus David Frenkiel’s food photography is just so stunning. I never tire of just looking at all the beautiful images on their blog or in their books. It was actually when I bought their app about four years ago that I got really inspired to take my then website and redesign it so that I could get more into food blogging. And here we are some 3 years later, having seen that idea into fruition.

I tend to eat with my eyes a lot of the time, hence why having plenty of colour on my plate is both aesthetically important as well as pleasing to me. But colourful plant foods are also full of important phyto-nutrients, (plant compounds) that are vital for our optimal health. Some of them we do know what they do and how they work in the body, yet others are there still to be discovered.

Sometimes the discussion of which “diet” is the best one gets tiring, though when it really comes down to it nobody can argue with the fact that eating a large quantity of fruit and vegetables daily is vital for our overall health and wellbeing.

It’s not only the physiological benefits, in this recent review study where they looked at sampled food diaries over three years, from over 12 000 Australians the researches concluded that;

“Increased fruit and vegetable consumption was predictive of increased happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being. Citizens could be shown evidence that “happiness” gains from healthy eating can occur quickly and many years before enhanced physical health.”

So regardless what “dietary style” camp or community one belongs to, it is pretty clear that vegetables and plants should form the baseline of ones diet, if health and even happiness is where you want to be!

Rainbow Smoothie

 

Before we get to the recipe I would like to give you a couple of my smoothie making strategies that I’ve picked up over the years. At this point, I’ve made countless combinations and tried things that worked and things that didn’t so to short cut you on your own exploratory journey here’s some insights!

 

  • Try adding some kind of healthy fats + protein source to make sure that you have a smoothie that will keep you fueled for awhile. My personal favourites are avocado or full fat coconut milk + pea / rice / hemp protein

 

Don’t blend green and red fruit and vegetables together, unless you don’t mind eating brown looking sludge… of course. Keeping it within the same colour theme makes a much more appealing looking concoction. Though of course there’s nothing to say that your brown slurry mix will taste better than it looks, however if you plan on Instagramming it, I would certainly keep the colour on point!

 

  • Use a variety of liquids as blending options. Most “old” and traditional smoothie recipes are a blend of natural yoghurt and fruit, but for everybody who’s limiting dairy intake, or anyone else who wants to increase their variety in general, there’s actually a whole host of different liquids that you can use! My standard one is usually (shop bought) almond milk or diluted coconut milk. But I’ve also experimented with  cold herbal teas (raspberry leaf and hibiscus in particular) or coconut water and they all make a really smoothie. Since finally investing in a nutmilk bag, I’ve been making a lots of different types of “milks”. From almond, to sesame to flax seed milk. It’s so easy! I tend to make two portions with my Nutribullet at the time.

A note here; remember that since you are making a fresh blend with no preservatives it won’t keep that long in the fridge so don’t make too much. You’ll find instructions on how to make your own nut or seed milk here.

So why calling this a Rainbow Smoothie then? Well because it has all the colours of the rainbow of course!

Rainbow Smoothie

Serves 1

1/2 cantaloupe melon, cut into chunks

3 fresh mint leaves

1 small banana

1/2 small avocado

1/4 tsp spirulina powder – optional

1/2 inch of fresh ginger, peeled

a handful of fresh green leaves like kale or spinach, washed

1 tbsp plant protein of choice

200 ml coconut water

blueberries, raspberries & bee pollen for toppings

Place all the ingredients, except for the toppings in your blender and blend until smooth. Serve your smoothie in a glass or a bowl and add the blueberries, raspberries and bee pollen for sensual delights!

 

colourful foods for your health

Oat Squares

Oat Squares

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with you all for ages. It’s one I came across months ago on the lovely Pippa Kendrick’s website The Intolerant Gourmet. I’ve been making these delicious oat squares from time to time and it is one of the recipes I most likely give to clients when they are asking for healthy snack options. Which is a question that I get asked A LOT!

Most of us have this thing with snacking… Through some curios observations, both personally and with clients I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a few legs to the snacking stool. And intertwined with it is one of my favourite topics, hunger & satiety.

 

Are you ready to look a little deeper of what function snacking has for you?

 

First up; eating regular meals to keep our blood sugar stable. There’s not much arguing here really, this is an important factor. Eating smaller meals with regular intervals ensure that your body and brain has as continuous supply of energy to run on, preventing you from getting on the dysglyceamia roller coaster.

Personally eating smaller meals and maybe 4-5 times / day seems to suit my digestive system a lot better. This tactic is also one I use with many of my clients when they need to get a handle on their eating pattern, especially if they are stressed. Sometimes you may even see eating up to  six times a day recommended, from some sources.

Keeping your blood sugar steady throughout the day, does not only give you more energy, it will also keep those pesky sugar cravings at bay, helping you make better choices for your health – rather than being driven by instinct and having your brain screaming at you “I need sugar NOW or I’m not going to make it!!”

But then there’s the other end of the spectrum which recommends eating fewer meals, slightly larger portions and in an 8h time frame, leaving your body 16h to fast, most of which is done overnight. This works really well for others who have a sensitive digestive system which needs a longer rest from food.

So how do you choose? How do you actually know what suits your body best? Well this is where a mind-body approach to eating comes in. You are really the only one that can figure this out. It’s time to begin to listen to the signals that your body is using to get your attention.

mindful eating

 

Do you know what true hunger feels like to you?

What are the first subtle signals your body send out, telling you it is looking for food as it’s running out of fuel?

And do you know what it physically feels like when you have reached the stage of ravenous?

I’ve seen many people overeat, simply because they have ignored the many signs of hunger, before they get to the stage of ravenous, and at this point eating becomes so primal and out of control. Usually in a fast and flurry frenzy, leaving us sometimes feeling out of control coupled with guilt and shame because we think we are low in willpower. When in fact, what we are lacking is selfcare…

Here is when having a healthy snack like these oat squares, or my other favourite snack: fresh fruit and nuts come in handy. If you know that there is a long gap, more than 3h between say your lunch and dinner, having a snack somewhere in between can greatly reduce the chances of you eating all around you when you get home to cook dinner. Simply because you are now not only hungry, you are ravenous.

I’ve also had patients who are the total opposite to this. They don’t know what their true hunger really feels like, because they never allow themselves to get to that point, out of the fear of losing control and binge like I just described above. If this is you, then I would invite you to, when you are in a safe environment to sit with your hunger sensations for awhile and take note how they show up in your body physically, before you start eating.

What will  really happen if you stay with those feelings and sensations rather than act and react to them immediately? Sometimes the desire to control our food intake is a response or a message that we want to have a sense of security in our life, especially when there are other things going on in our lives that makes us feel helpless and out of control.

 

Another thing to note, is that the composition of your meals, will likely also play a role in how much desire you have for snacking. If your meals are mostly made up of quick releasing carbohydrates like white bread, sugary snacks like chocolate bars as well as caffeine (on it’s on or combined with the others) chances are that you will want something to eat again after two hours. Or if you have a small bowl of soup at lunch and still have several hours to work and commute until you get home to make dinner, it is going to be difficult to say no to any cakes, biscuits or other treats that may be lurking around the office, for sure. Because chances are that it’s not your willpower that’s low, it’s your fuel gauge.

When you start having meals that are a combination of quality carbohydrates (such as whole, and I mean literally whole, grains, fruit, vegetables), some healthy fats and some protein and also make sure you eat enough to feel satisfied, chances are that you will find yourself snacking less.

 

So is snacking good or bad? I really don’t believe in labeling eating as any form of good or bad. As the leap from here to imply that when we eat a certain way may make us good or bad is way too tempting…

However, I believe that sometimes we do need a lighter small meal or snack to fill in that gap between something more substantial. And sometimes we just want to eat a little something for pure pleasure, whilst caring for our bodies by feeding them something nutritious at the same time. And whatever it is for you, I hope that these little guys will fit the bill for you.

They certainly do for me!

Healthy snacking

 

This recipe is so simple with the minimal of ingredients. I just love it. They keep well for a few days and make a great lunch box addition. Lots of fiber from both the dates and the oats. To me this is wholefood baking at its finest simplicity. I have barely made any changes to Pippa’s original recipe.

 

Oat Squares

 

Makes 12 squares

200g pitted dates

125g rolled oats – gluten free if needed

2 tbsp coconut oil – melted

Pinch of sea salt

50g dark chocolate min 70% – to drizzle over the top. Optional but delicious

 

Preheat the oven to 180c and line the baking tin.

Roughly chop the dates, place in a saucepan with 250ml water and bring to a gentle simmer.  Leave to simmer over a low heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until the dates soften and form a thick paste.

Stir the oats, salt and coconut oil into the dates until combined and then spread into the baking tin, leveling the top with the back of a spoon and in a square shape.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.  Remove from the oven and cut into squares. 

Leave in the tin to cool completely and then transfer to a board and re-cut the squares before serving.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water and then drizzle it generously over the cooled squares. 

Store your oat squares in a sealed container in the fridge. They will keep a few days, but I’ll doubt they’ll last long enough to go off…

oat squares made with dates and oats

Zingy Smoothie – for grey spring days

Zingy Smoothie – for grey spring days

In keeping with the yellow theme from last month’s blog post on the FIRE Aspect, I give you another yellow combination. And yes, it’s still a liquid one(!) *Note to self, make the next recipe something that you’ll chew*

But as I’m getting myself geared up for Whole Detox™ in about 10 days I’m enjoying a few smoothies here and there. Though I’m not really one for cold food in cold weather, (and boy is the warm winter we had turning cold and struggling to move out of the way) it can be hard to look past the convenience of smoothies when it comes to simple ways to increase the amount of fresh produce you eat. Eating enough can be such a challenge at times, and who would have thought, since the message that’s mostly thrown around it the one “eat less, move more”.

I’ve even had people on some of my programmes freaking out because of the volume of food on their plate. The beauty is though that when we increase the amount of colourful plant based foods we eat, we get to eat MORE, not less.

I remember doing this simple math’s exercise with a group I had on a weightloss programme a few years ago. Though, as you know I’m not a huge fan of counting calories but for this simple visual experiment they do serve a purpose.

 

So visualise this; One 500 ml bottle of soft drink (minerals / soda / fizzy drink – pick your name) contains roughly 500 kcal. Without having a label in front of me it will give you a fair amount of sugar, probably 10-14 teaspoons (remember this is a completely man-made product so any carbohydrate content will be pure sugar and count as your “added sugar intake”). There will also be some colourings and additives, more or less depending on the type and brand you choose.

Now let’s take those same 500 kcal and see how that translate into vegetables. So (from memory) 500 kcal worth of vegetable is about two full shopping bags worth! Lots of vital nutrients, fibre and volume. I would honestly think you’d struggle to chomp it all down in the course of a day.

That’s why the very handy, yet simple strategy of filling half your plate with vegetables is such a powerful way to reduce the total amount of calories yet maximise the amount of quality nutrition you get. There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple.

zingy smoothie

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetable a day for any diet to be disease preventable. 5-a-day is actually a minimum. And I see people who are only getting 2-3 at times.

How many portions are you eating daily?

I even know for myself when we did food diaries as project back in college, that upping it to 7-10 actually takes a conscious effort. Perhaps that’s one reason I’m so drawn to smoothies?

Anyway, another thing that I realised the other day is this;  What if we look at the food we eat in a symbolic way? The majority of us want to have more energy so we can do more (and even BE more) and if we have a constant feeling of lack luster and even low mood holds this may hold us back from doing all that we want. It’s seriously frustrating. I can still remember what it felt like some years ago when my energy levels where down on 3-4, out of 10. A lot of the time I just functioned and got through the day, doing what had to be done. I was constantly tired.

So what if we focus on eating more foods that are vibrant and alive? What about adding more colour to the plate? My whole food philosophy is about feasting your eyes as much as feeding your body. In case you hadn’t noticed…

So without a degree in nutrition and if you want to keep it simple, yet knowing that you are getting lots of essential nutrients to fuel your body and mind, think colour! Think rainbow and aim to eat a rainbow of colours every day.

nutritional therapy

So with colour in mind, here is a yellow zingy smoothie that is sure to put some zest and brightness into your day.

If you are feeling brave and have a strong blender, like a Nutribullet, then go ahead and blend the whole lemon! It sure makes for some serious digestive power! Otherwise just use the juice.

And since the sun is still shining with it’s absence I am trying to brighten my days in other ways. This is one such way. Enjoy 🙂

 

Zingy Smoothie for Grey Spring Days

 

Serves 1

1 cup fresh pineapple – peeled, cored and diced

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled

Juice of one whole lemon – or peel (if you have an organic one you can blend the whole one) and use the whole fruit!

1 banana

1 small fresh root of turmeric or 1 tsp of turmeric powder

1 tbsp of hulled hempseeds

1 tbsp of pea, rice or hemp protein (I like the Pulsin brand)

200-250ml plant milk of choice

Place all the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Drink immediately. 

***Note, personally I don’t like really cold drinks (unless the weather is really hot) but if you want a colder drink feel free to add some ice too***

 

Zingy Fire Smoothie