Apple and Almond Flapjacks

Flapjacks

Well hello, 2016. As far as ‘resolutions’ go, I try not to make them. The threat of failure, coupled with the incessant nagging at the back of my mind that I must do whatever it is EVERY day, otherwise there’s no point making them, leaves me feeling downtrodden by the 5th January. Instead, I noted down aims to keep in mind as I set off into the new year, and made a resolution to not beat myself up if I forget about them for a day or two.

M honey

This year, I decided to focus on eating mindfully (i.e. not standing in the kitchen shoving whatever came to hand in my mouth without a second thought), doing one deliberate thing every day to reduce stress (yoga, meditation, turning off all screens by 10pm) and to move more (which, given my desk-bound job, won’t take much). The mindful eating has so far (10 days in) been the most influential, as I have noticed how much of the eating I do is a result of stress or tiredness. Just noticing this pattern and being aware of it has helped massively, and reminding myself that food isn’t always the answer. Usually, a cup of tea and a lie down is.

M almonds

I noticed that I was getting blood sugar drops around 3pm each day at work, when it would feel like the world was going to end and the only thing that would get me out of this state was something insanely sugary. I spoke to a nutritionist friend, Ellen, about this, who said that the solution was not to let it reach this stage, by keeping my blood sugar level. To do this, she recommended eating every 2 hours or so (hallelujah!). But it was crucial that the snacks I was having didn’t contain sugar, so wouldn’t cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. So, I made these flapjacks sugar free, using stewed prunes as a base (Ellen’s idea) and a bit of honey to help stick everything together.

flapjacks on plate

For more information about Ellen and naturopathic nutrition, click here.

 

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Granola and Honey Poached Nectarines

Granola

I love breakfast. And I love eating granola for breakfast more than almost anything else. My most devoted and eagle-eyed readers (hi, Mum) will notice that I have already posted a granola recipe, albeit  6 months ago. Given my pretty all-consuming love of granola, I can’t get enough of experimenting with different combinations of ingredients until I get it right. I decided to give the Pecan and Maple Syrup granola that I made before another try. I guess this could be called ‘recipe development’,  and is something that I should probably do more of, rather than just chucking random amounts of things together and hoping it works out.

Nectarines

One of the main motivations for making this particular batch of granola was my recent discovery of  the many uses for coconut oil. This miracle ingredient can be used both as a remarkably effective facial cleanser, and to cook with, leaving me with the rather pressing dilemma of whether to keep it in the bathroom or the kitchen. I’ve opted for the kitchen, and resorted to occasionally delving into the jar with a cotton pad to smear some on my face. As well as being a delicious start to stir-frys and curries, coconut oil can also be used to make granola. Deliciously crunchy granola at that. My previous recipe used sunflower oil and apple juice, leaving the granola slightly too soggy. The coconut oil helps everything to dry out and crisp up, and perfumes everything with a pleasant coconutty aroma.

Granola 2

I accidentally over-bought on fruit this week. I always get a bit overexcited at the fruit and veg shop in late summer, as it seems as though the days I’ve got left to gorge myself on all the lovely summer fruits are dwindling rapidly.  I don’t usually manage to consume 6 nectarines in the brief five minute window that they’re ripe, but I always forget this and buy them anyway.  So I decided to make use of their slightly under-ripe state by poaching them until soft in a vanilla and honey syrup. The combination of crunchy granola, tart yoghurt and the silky, sweet nectarines is, as they say in Bristol, ‘gert lush’.

Granola 3

 

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Vegessential: Quinoa Porridge with Roasted Beetroot, Apple and Ginger

Quinoa Porridge

My friend Paris has started a food and lifestyle website called Avocado Please. She writes interesting and informative articles on all manner of topics, from muesli to nail varnish. We decided to ‘collaborate’ by writing some recipes together, then making, styling and eating the food. I have recently started trying to incorporate much more veg into my diet, and have therefore been thinking more outside the box when it comes to using vegetables in a variety of different ways. The idea is to make vegetables a more essential part of our diets, hence Paris coining the genius ‘vegessential’ to describe our project. We decided to focus on one ingredient and experiment with how it can be used in a variety of dishes, both savoury and sweet. After much deliberation, considering among others avocados, sweet potatoes and kale, we eventually settled on beetroot. It’s pretty versatile, and has been reliably tested in cakes. It’s also cheap, and, as anyone whose ever grated a raw beetroot will testify, seems to go on forever.

beetroot montage

The idea is to demonstrate how you can get more out of one ingredient- focusing on how it can be used throughout the week, to reduce waste and get us all thinking more creatively about using vegetables. Beetroot usually comes elastic-banded together in a group of at least 4, and just grating them into salads can get a bit tedious. So, beetroot on your porridge anyone? Quinoa porridge, made by cooking the grain slowly in milk, is something that I’ve heard of on the grapevine (and seen on Instagram) but never tried. Something that might cause a frown among the less open minded of cooks. But I was prepared to go in with an open mind. We also added stewed apple and fresh ginger, to liven the proceedings up a bit.

Ingredients montage

Quinoa. However it’s pronounced – my Dad still insists on ‘keenoya’, even though I repeatedly insist that it’s ‘keenwa’ – it seems to be taking the health food world by storm. Usually the preserve of salads and the like, but rarely used in sweet dishes. The result, despite trying to go in with the aforementioned open mind, was…interesting. Pleasantly creamy and nutty, which was helped by the almond milk. But it was oddly savoury – maybe because quinoa is a taste and texture that I associate with savoury food. I think my mouth was slightly confused at being presented with quinoa and having to process that it was sweet. We roasted the beetroot in rice syrup, adding to the sweetness, but overall the dish was still too savoury for my liking. After all, I’m not one of those strange individuals who puts salt on their porridge – for me it’s got to be a sweet thing.  We could have equally made these ingredients into a salad, omitting the almond milk. A worthwhile experiment, but I think I might add more sugar next time.

Porridge

 

For the recipe and riveting beetroot-related facts, visit www.avocadoplease.com.

Pecan and Maple Syrup Granola

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The last few weeks have been oddly chaotic, given that I now don’t have a job. I have been frantically trying to fill my time – visiting friends in London and Brighton, and my Dad in Cornwall- so I don’t get too bored. I have also started looking for a place to live in Bristol, which involves rushing up at a moment’s notice to do a house viewing. I now understand that thing retired people say about not knowing how they ever had time to work.

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On the odd day where I’ve not got anything else planned, I work on a blog post. I’ve really enjoyed taking more time over them. This one, for instance, was the product of an afternoon set aside specially to play with a new ‘prop’: a piece of slate. It’s not quite big enough to be a full background on its own, so I laid it on a chair, then arranged things on top. It’s surprisingly difficult to make pecans look like they have been casually scattered– whatever configuration I arranged them in seemed to look, well, arranged.

montage3

I am an avid granola fan, consuming it for breakfast almost every day. I pair it with some thick greek yoghurt, and sometimes some chopped banana. I keep expecting to get bored of it, but when I vary my breakfast by having toast, a little part of me wishes I were eating granola. So I thought it was high time I tried making some.  There are no rules here – feel free to add any combination of nuts and seeds that you fancy. The maple syrup can be substituted for something else syrupy, such as honey, agave syrup, golden syrup or date syrup (actually, I might try that one next time..).

granola

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Porridge with Spiced Pear Compote

bowl

The temperature around these parts has suddenly taken a nose-dive. From a pleasant, if a little chilly, seven degrees it has now plummeted to an icy minus three. The dreaded ‘s’ word has been mentioned. When it’s this cold, the only thing that will coax me out of my lovely warm bed at seven in the morning is a bowl of porridge.

montage

I am suffering the onset of my usual autumn/winter cold. It was with a severely blocked nose that I made my first batch of spiced pear compote to go with my morning porridge. Having neglected to read the faint label on the spice jar, I liberally sprinkled in what I assumed, relying purely on my non-existent sense of smell, to be cinnamon. It was in fact chilli powder.

pears

I didn’t discover this, however, until the next morning, when I sat down to tuck into my porridge and compote, only to be proverbially whacked in the face by so much chilli it made my eyes water. Well at least it woke me up. There was something quite pleasing about a slight bit of chilli in amongst the sugary pears and creamy porridge, although maybe not in this quantity.

porridge and spoon

So this was attempt two at pear compote – relying on my much more reliable sense of sight to decipher the contents of the spice cupboard. I’ve included a tiny pinch of chilli powder as an optional ingredient, but feel free to leave it out if you consider it mildly insane.

porridge

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