Holidays are over and it’s time to get back to normality… If you have kids I am guessing you are in the midst of preparing for the return to school. Even though it is years (many years in fact) since I went to school, this time of year always reminds me of just that. The sense of that first light chill in the air, the sweet smell of grain ready for harvest and just the beginning of a hint of red on the leaves. Then you know that change is in the air and that we are slowly moving towards darker times. Summer is drawing to a close… Both with a little sadness, yet with a light exciting anticipation of what may lay ahead.
I came back from my long awaited holidays earlier this week. And boy am I feeling the change in the air! When you live abroad, “going home” is almost a necessity. Kind of a given way to spend some of your hard earned time off. This is my 13th year abroad and every summer I return faithfully to my roots. Luckily I have a loving home to return to every year and since my beloved mother lives in one of the most beautiful places on earth it makes the endeavor an even sweeter one. About ten years ago she moved to the most southernly area of Sweden, Österlen. It is so close to the sea and one of those special places with special light.
This area of Sweden has been home to painters and artists for centuries. If you have ever visited, it is obvious why. You will find art galleries, vintage stores and artisan cafés dotted all over the place. This is not where I grew up though. My “real home” is smack bang in the middle of Skåne, with a slightly different landscape. Different but still beautiful. My dad and his family come from this particular countryside and my darling brother is set to carry on the tradition, having built his house here and having started his own family earlier this year.
This post is slightly different to my usual ones as I would like to share some pictures I took whilst I was home, in Sweden. I sincerely hope you won’t mind. If you have never visited this corner of the earth, hopefully a few images will inspire you to do so!
The little town of Kivik, located right on the coast is world famous for all things apple. You will find an almost unimaginable amount of rows up on rows of apple trees growing in the area. Imagine the beauty of Spring there! All those flowers…
Most of the coastline is scattered with small sandy beaches and the Baltic can be very warm with water temperatures reaching the mid 20s if the summer is a hot one. I manged just one dip while I was home but I doubt it was still mid 20s kinda warm. It didn’t really feel like it was! It truly is a summer paradise around here and judging from the amount of tourists still around, a lot of people seem to think so. The area is actually equally beautiful in the winter, but much much colder so hardly any visitors to be seen anywhere then. I’m sure the locals don’t mind the peace and quiet over the winter months, though. They must be worn out after the summer.
When I first moved overseas, there was a whole heap of foods and dishes I missed. Since then, my dietary habits have changed, a lot. Much for the better, I suppose. So now I miss cooking when I’m away instead. There are still a few foods which find their way back to Ireland every time though. Things like REAL traditional Swedish rye crispbread and “Kalles Kaviar”, a caviar in a tube. Might sound rather awful to some… But not if you are a true Swede 😉 Anyone with me? Have you tried it?
The recipe here is a delicious purple smoothie bowl made with blackcurrants foraged from my mother’s tiny little kitchen garden. I simply adore blackcurrants, so enjoyed the opportunity to pick them straight from the bush as oppose to a freezer bag for a change. Blackcurrants are a true super food which we, who live in the northerly latitudes can enjoy locally. It has as much vitamin C as goji berries so a perfect berry to store for the winter months to stave off any colds and flu bugs. When I was in my late teens and still lived in Sweden I had never even heard of a dairy free smoothie bowl, like this recipe. Fast forward ten years or so and they have become a weekly staple. How things change, hey?
Smoothie bowls are so handy when you are looking for something which resemble that bowl of yoghurt with cereal you used to eat before you had to clean up your act. When I finally realised that my body felt so much better without dairy and had to give up my beloved natural yoghurt, having my smoothie in a bowl at times has made me feel a little less deprived. Now I can top it with with crunchy seeds or homemade granola just like I used to when I was 12! The fact that this kind of breakfast bowl will give you less sugar and more nutrition than traditional ones, makes it even more worthwhile.
The idea of using coconut milk comes from a summer holiday spent in Barcelona a few years ago. ( I still went “home” though, just had to cut it a little shorter than normal, that year. ) If you have ever visited the amazing food market there with all the gorgeous fresh fruit smoothies, you’ll know what I’m on about… For a smoothie to be eaten out of a bowl, you need a slightly thicker consistency than normal so go easy on the liquid. Otherwise all your lovely toppings will sink like stones to the bottom. No hope of any pretty styling then 😉
Purple Smoothie Bowl
100 ml coconut milk – fresh or use a good quality full fat coconut milk with little or no additives, organic if possible
1/4 cup fresh or frozen blackcurrant
Rinse and drain the berries if using freshly picked ones. Place berries, coconut milk and banana in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately in a bowl and top with your favourite muesli, granola or toasted seeds. Add more berries if you so wish.
I like the rather tart taste of the berries so for me the banana is enough to sweeten. You can of course add a little honey or maple syrup if you find it too tart. However I would recommend not to, if you wish to keep your sugar intake low.
If you wish to try another smoothie with coconut milk, check out this recipe which I made for this site a little while back. A seriously refreshing summer drink. If you can get hold of some water melon and strawberries, it’s worth trying. Promise.
Well, are you ready for autumn now? I don’t know if I can truly say I am. It will be here whether we want it or not though, so we might just embrace it… But until it is inevitable, I for one will savour what’s left of the summer and the lovely memories of the past few weeks spent with old friends and family. Grounding and reconnecting with my roots. How about you?
Are you part of the Green Smoothie Club? If smoothies are a very recent addition to your daily menu, making it a green one may still feel a little daunting. Or if having liquidized greens still seems a little ‘too out there’ for you, yet you are curious about trying out one – then this recipe is for you.
The Green Smoothie for Beginners is the first part in my upcoming smoothie series. I have a couple more refreshing raw drinks in the pipeline for you while the season is still primed for indulging in raw foods. Smoothies, particularly green ones is such a simple step to increase the amount of raw food in your daily diet, and your intake of vegetables over all.
I don’t own a fancy blender like a Nutri-bullet or a Vitamix (I wish I did though…). The basic blender I had, which had a good glass jug I broke by putting something too hot in it. Kitchen mishaps… So these days I’m back to using my trusted hand blender (actually I wore one out and had to replace it as I couldn’t do with out!) I’m not one for (too many) fancy kitchen gadgets but my hand blender is one gadget I certainly couldn’t live without. I’ve even taken it on holiday with me. How sad it that?
Ever since I broke my blender jug, green smoothies has been off my menu, as I believed my little hand blender would not be strong enough to blend the green leaves. The key to a really good green smoothie is to make sure that the leaves are really well chopped up. You simply won’t have that fabulous of an experience if you have to chomp through chunks of leaves. I mean, it’s called smoothie for a reason. Right? Anyhow, we have been getting some great fresh produce here lately which included both spinach and the utterly beautiful rainbow chard. So I though, let’s put the hand blender to the test and see if it is possible to make some kind of green smooth(ie) goodness with it.
Success! Here you are. My basic green smoothie recipe for beginners, using only a hand blender. No excuses now, not to try out these greenies.
Most of the smoothies I make includes two of my favourite ingredients, banana and avocado. Both of them add a lovely creaminess to any smoothie and the healthy fat from the avocado helps to counteract any possible blood sugar spike from the fruit. Having smoothies as oppose to juices means you will get all the fibre from the fresh produce too.
Green Smoothie For Beginners
1/2 an avocado
1 small banana or 1/2 of a big one, peeled & chopped
a fist of soft green mild-tasting leaves, like chard or spinach – washed
1 kiwi, peeled & roughly chopped
a squeeze of lime – optional
200ml of filtered water or plant milk of choice
Scoop out the flesh of the avocado and add together with the rest of the ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth. Pour your smoothie into a glass. Top with some Chia seeds, bee pollen or any other fancy super food you can think of. Or do what I do when not styling for a photo shoot – have it straight from the container…
Congrats! You are now well on your way to a healthier, more wholesome lifestyle. Don’t worry if your tastebuds protest a little at first. Practice makes perfect.
It looks like Spring has finally arrived. Yay! And I have a confession to make… I’ve just ordered my very first gardening book. Oh my, I wonder where this is all heading? Those green fingers seem to have skipped a generation and I doubt I’ll ever be an avid and as an accomplished gardener like my grand-mother, who at 94 is still out in the garden keeping it weed-free and flourishing. Perhaps it’s the fact that the sun has finally come out to play and the rise in temperature that has brought on the temptation of having a crack at growing (well at least trying) something edible? I’m not sure really.
The more you delve into eating REAL food, packaged as nature intended, the more it make sense to take care where that food comes from. So having a go at trying to grow at least a few of the vegetables you eat makes sense. Well worth a go anyway. Since I’ve always maintained that I would starve to death if I had to rely on my own home grown stuff, I’m grateful if I manage to grow enough for a meal or two. Time will tell.
Since the temperatures has finally risen into double figures, smoothies are back in! I eat them all the time, but even more so in the Spring and Summer months. Especially as a quick meal when I’m pressed for time. Or as a quick breakfast. Or sometimes as a recovery snack after a heavy work out or training session.
Then I usually add some extra protein to it. I have found it to be the breakfast which will keep me full the longest. If heading out for a couple of hours on the bike or a hike in the mountain, this is what I start off my day with. Everyone is different though, so test out a few different options to find out what works for you. Is it the old reliable bowl of porridge? A power smoothie? Or perhaps an egg based breakfast?
My smoothies almost always contain two base ingredients. Banana and avocado. The banana serves as a great natural sweetener and the avocado gives it a creamy texture. Avocados also offers amazing health benefits being a great source of monounsaturated fat, potassium, B-vitamin and fibre. In the previous fat phobic era, avocados would have been considering a no-no. However we now know that the type of fat in avocados are easily used as energy, can actually lower cholesterol and are also important for both good skin health and proper brain function. Healthy fats also keeps us full for longer.
I first started adding avocados to my smoothies a few years ago after reading a book about raw food for children. Before that it had never really occurred to me. This was obviously before the constant influence and inspiration of Instagram! Since then they are my constant smoothie companion. It makes so much sense to use them as apart from the lovely texture you get, they will also balance the naturally occurring sugar from the fruit, and make it a more slow release form of energy. Hence it will keep you full for longer.
Having smoothies are an excellent way of increasing your intake of raw food. Something a lot of people could do with. Including at least some raw food in your daily food intake will maximise your intake of live enzymes and nutrients in an unadulterated way. Raw food is literally alive and hence makes us feel more vibrant! An added bonus to making smoothies are you don’t need any fancy gadgets to make them either. A simple hand blender (immersion blender) will do the job perfectly. Simple to clean too.
This smoothie is super decadent and would also work as a healthy dessert. Or a fancy pants lunch, eaten outside while enjoying the beautiful Spring weather. Bound to lift the spirits every time! Naturally dairy, gluten and refined sugar free.
Peanut Butter & Raspberry Smoothie
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries, thaw if using frozen
1/2 ripe avocado
1 medium sized banana, roughly chopped
1 tbsp raw cacao powder – raw will give you the highest nutritional value, but for flavour you can use a god quality cocoa powder instead
1 tbsp pure peanut butter
250 ml milk of choice
Bee pollen, fresh raspberries or cacao nibs to top – Optional
Place banana, avocado, peanut butter and cacao powder in the blender container. Add the milk of your choice. Blend everything until smooth and creamy. In a glass, mash your fresh raspberries then add your peanut butter smoothie mix on top. Garnish with a few raspberries, some cacao nibs or bee pollen. Eat outside in sunshine with a spoon. Enjoy feeding all your senses for immediate pleasure and satisfaction 🙂