Shredded Sprouts and Tofu

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I love my Abel and Cole Cookbook. It’s full of wholesome, hearty recipes which work with the seasons (and therefore the ingredients in my weekly veg box!) So today, when deciding to use up a bag of organic sprouts languishing in post-Christmas asylum, this book was my go-to guide for some wintery inspiration. Now of course, the wonderful recipe writers at Abel and Cole land aren’t all vegetarian and so I am used to getting creative when not wanting to miss out on a beautiful dish, but this recipe Shredded Brussels and Bacon appeared to challenge us veggies directly:

“If you’re vegetarian and thinking about moving over to the dark side”

The blurb read arrogantly (But with a good enough dollop of tongue-in-cheek honesty, to allow me to refrain from offence) I did feel challenged though. Opening the fridge, I spotted a pack of smoked tofu that really needed using and considered if this would be enough to match the succulence of fried bacon. Perhaps not in texture but paired with the sweet maple syrup I had to hand, I thought I’d give it a go! So often with meat, it’s the sauces, flavourings and texture we in fact crave, not the taste of the plain meat itself. I also had some Indian ghee (clarified butter) to use up, and with its high smoke point (making it incredibly stable in molecular structure when cooking) it would be perfect for browning and adding much lusted-after flavour to the tofu.

Ok so here goes; a simple, healthy and seasonal vegetarian recipe inspired by Abel and Cole’s meaty one; where I switched bacon for smoked tofu, soy sauce for maple and butter for ghee. The original recipe also includes carrots, which I didn’t use – as I didn’t have, but I’d say feel free to experiment with/increase the variety of vegetables to your liking/as the season dictates.

Ingredients:
A small bag of Brussels Sprouts
A 225g packet of smoked tofu, cubed (I find that Clear Spot’s has a very good firmness)
1.5 tbsp of ghee (or a good quality oil)
A good glug of maple syrup
Salt and black pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped sage (optional)
Brown rice (to serve)
Vegetarian hard cheese, grated (optional)

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1. First get your rice simmering in water and then begin preparing the sprouts. You’ll need to cut a few millimetres off the bottom of each sprout (depending on size of stalk) and remove the outer leaves, before slicing in half and then shredding lengthways, with each slice around 2mm wide.

2. Heat 1 tbsp of ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot and begin to fry the tofu cubes until golden and beginning to crisp on each side. Do this gently, but don’t allow it to stew. I find a medium-high heat, plenty of ghee, with as little stirring as possible the best method here.

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3. Add the shredded sprouts and half the chopped sage. Splash in a good glug of maple syrup, give it all a good stir and then leave it to cook for between 5 and 10 mins. After which, taste and season accordingly, adding more maple syrup if required.

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4. Serve on a mound of rice, with the sprouts having kept a slight bite and sprinkle over the rest of the sage and some vegetarian hard cheese for extra richness and flavour.

This recipe can easily be adapted for vegans, just switch the ghee for a good quality oil (one with a high smoke point like rapeseed would work well here) and omit the cheese or switch for a dusting of nutritional yeast.

I hope you enjoy this healthy, wintery treat, my children aged 7 and 3 cleared their plates and asked for more! An unequivocal Brussels Sprout result in my book!

Happy New Year!

Jaime xx

Purple Healing Juice

I love this time of year. The world around us is filled with the colours, sights and sounds of Autumn and best of all, we are reeping the rewards of the Summer’s vegetable harvest. With the change in seasons however, come some familiar battles. Our skin and hair may begin to suffer as the sunlight wanes and central heating clicks on for those chilly, misty mornings. Colds and viruses too, cling on and linger in the cool, damp air and chesty coughs can seem to last forever. I always feel tired this time of year, the heat and fun of Summer are a distant memory as we begin to wake up in the dark and plan for the coming festive season.

Diet plays a huge part in how we feel, so in addition to your hearty vitamin-packed soups, fresh local fruit and plenty of water; I’ve created a fabulous seasonal juice recipe to heal and refuel this Autumn.

Pomegranates are incredibly high in vitamin C and potassium. Pomegranate juice is also high in three different types of polyphenols, a potent form of antioxidant. The three types – tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid – are present in many fruits, but fresh pomegranate juice contains particularly high amounts of all three.

As well as all the vitamins, beetroot juice has been proven to have beneficial effects on blood pressure and fitness output. So instead of your usual caffeine hit, feel energised, refuelled and refreshed with the juice of this beautiful Autumn vegetable.

As a natural anti-inflammatory, a large dose of ginger is the perfect antidote to the lingering coughs and colds of Autumn and will help to soothe the worst of the seasonal aches and pains away. I love ginger and try to drink it steeped in warm lemon water as much as possible, but here it makes an appearance in another delicious juice recipe.

You will need:
1 pomegranate
1 – 2 medium sized beets
Minimum 1/4 inch piece of Ginger
1 carrot
1 apple
A large handful of dark leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale or cavolo nero all provide excellent nutrition and a large boost of chlorophyll)

To Prepare:
1. Wash and soak your greens.
2. To open your pomegranate; cut a circle at the top of the fruit about an inch wide around the brown ‘nib’, remove this lid. Then, make five or six (depending on the size and shape of your pomegranate) cuts down each ridge on the main body of the fruit, but take care not to break the plump seed pods contained inside. Carefully remove all the seed pods and pop in the juicer. (For a clear step-by-step on preparing your pomegranate, click here, for a handy fact sheet by Waitrose.
3. Wash, top and tail your beetroot and carrot and add to the juicer.
4. Pop the soaked greens and slice of ginger into the juicer and juice, finishing with your apple to push through any remaining pieces.

Drink fresh and feel revived!

*Tip: For maximum output, I always rehydrate my leafy greens (especially if they’re pre-cut) in a bowl of cold water for around 15 mins prior to juicing.

Jaime x

Image Credit: The Jolly Beetroot

Damn Good Damson Jam

Ahh scrumptious September! It’s that time of year when the fruit of the summer sun’s labour really comes to light and hedgerows are filled with free sweet delights to see us through the onset of Autumn. Ours is unseasonably warm this year and while writing this blog the girls are at the park enjoying a warm dusk and the windows of my home are flung open wide to entice in the cooling late summer breeze.

We are luckily enough to live very close to lots of productive foraging sites; as well as the usual nettles and dandelions we are lucky to have blackberries, rose hips, and of course, damsons, just a short stroll away and we are accustomed now to bringing an array of baskets and bowls with us whenever we walk, for the acquisition of the ripest of nature’s sweets.

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Damsons are a relation of the plum, although they are much much smaller (about the size of a very large grape) and are recognisable by their beautiful dark indigo colouring, which is usually covered in a white ‘pith’ which rubs away with the oils of your hands. Damsons contain a single small stone and should have a fairly pale amber flesh. They have a very tart taste when eaten off the tree and a juice that will cut through grease and clear your palate. I just love damsons, and this damson jam recipe will bring the essence of a hazy Indian summer into your darkening mornings as Winter sets in.

This recipe makes about six jars.

Ingredients:
1kg damsons
1.25kg preserving sugar
400ml water

*De-stoning the fruit:
There are two options here and in my most recent batch I used the method detailed below, but another way to ensure a stone free jam is to cut the fruit in half and remove each stone before using them. Time consuming, but ultimately worth it!

Method:

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Put the fruit and the water into a big high-sided pan and simmer until the skins are soft and the liquid has reduced by a third. As the fruit is softening, press it against the side of the pan to release the stones and remove with a slotted spoon. (Turn the heat off if this process is taking a while – you don’t want to burn the fruit)

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Take the pan off the heat and add the sugar, stirring gently until it’s all dissolved. (It can help if you warm the sugar first, by putting it in the oven for 10 minutes)

When the sugar has dissolved, return the pan to the heat and boil it rapidly until the setting point is reached. Take the pan off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Skim off any scum that has formed, then pot up into sterilised* jars and store in a cool dark place until ready for use.

Why not tie ribbons around some of the jars and give them out as Christmas presents this year? There are some fab editable and printable labelling tools online, give it a go!

*to sterilise your jars simply wash them and put them through the dishwasher (alternatively use a microwave) on its hot setting while you’re making the jam. Spoon the mixture into the still-warm jars and seal immediately with a lid. The heat of the mixture and the jar will enable it to seal effectively and prevent any bacteria from disturbing your beautiful batch of jam.

Spring Squash and Sprouting – A Vegan Curry Recipe

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I adore receiving my weekly Abel and Cole Box and today I decided to use some of the beautiful white sprouting broccoli; the perfect spring posy in my hand you see above. Lucky me!

I also had a smallish butternut squash and some gorgeous red onions, which really are purple aren’t they? So purple onions in-tow and a posy of broccoli in hand, I had the makings of the perfect mid-week family meal.

Recipe: Spring Squash and Sprouting Curry
Serves 4

Ingredients:
300g brown rice, rinsed
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
A large handful of white sprouting broccoli (or similar), ends trimmed
1 red (or purple!) onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tin coconut milk
Small piece of fresh ginger, chopped
A selection of your favourite curry spices or a spoonful of paste. I used a mix of turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, paprika and cayenne chilli power.
A handful of fresh coriander
The juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

Method:

Put a large pan of water on to boil and cook rice according to packet instructions.

Melt coconut oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Combine squash pieces with some of the melted oil, chopped ginger and your curry spices.

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Sauté the sliced onions gently in the warmed pan until slightly golden and translucent. Add garlic.

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Add the squash and spice mixture and sauté for a few minutes to allow the spices to cook and the squash to soften slightly. Add the broccoli and combine before adding the coconut milk and simmer for around 20minutes, or until the squash is tender.

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Once cooked, remove from the heat, season with salt to taste and stir through half the coriander. Finish with a generous squeeze of lime, serve on top of a mound of brown rice and with the remaining coriander sprinkled on top.

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A light, vegan curry for you to enjoy on these still-chilly Spring evenings! I hope you like it, do share your results!

Go Green From the Inside out

Another reblog! I have been away this weekend minus my lovely new juicer and have really missed my fave green juice! I’ve just been out and bought lots of green goodies and can’t wait for a big healthy kick start tomorrow!

Green Dreams and Yoga

I have finally bought myself a juicer! Yes I know I am terrifically late, but the main cause of my almighty dithering was purely down to shopping. Yuk. I really do hate shopping and after reading hundreds of different reviews and searching every juicer under the sun online (£400 will get you the best at-home-juicer. Yes, £400!)  Bearing in mind the spinach and kale bill steadily mounting up (In line with my nutritional aptitude of course), I’m glad I wasn’t persuaded to go for this option just yet. In the end, last Sunday morning, I packed the family into the car and we went juicer shopping.  I just needed to go out, pick one and buy it.  In the end I went for a simple Philips centrifugal model, which is compact, smart and easy to clean.  Yes its pretty loud and the pulp isn’t as dry as it could be, but…

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Go Green From the Inside out

I have finally bought myself a juicer! Yes I know I am terrifically late, but the main cause of my almighty dithering was purely down to shopping. Yuk. I really do hate shopping and after reading hundreds of different reviews and searching every juicer under the sun online (£400 will get you the best at-home-juicer. Yes, £400!)  Bearing in mind the spinach and kale bill steadily mounting up (In line with my nutritional aptitude of course), I’m glad I wasn’t persuaded to go for this option just yet. In the end, last Sunday morning, I packed the family into the car and we went juicer shopping.  I just needed to go out, pick one and buy it.  In the end I went for a simple Philips centrifugal model, which is compact, smart and easy to clean.  Yes its pretty loud and the pulp isn’t as dry as it could be, but hey, its a juicer and so far, it’s great!

Who knew that the hardest part about juicing was getting set up in the first place?

So why juice? This was another major factor in my procrastination over juicing – I have a good diet which includes plenty of vegetables, so why do I need to juice them too?  Well the reality is that we are just not eating enough of the stuff and certainly not enough of the really special stuff.  Dark green leafy vegetables are nutritional superheroes packed full of vitamins, minerals and those all important phytonutrients which are associated with protection against the big four: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. They are also rich in chlorophyll, which alkalises the blood.  When was the last time you ate half a bag of raw kale?  That is what you get from juicing – all the goodness of the veg minus only the fibre, which you replace by either hiding some of that pulp in your meals (yup!) or if your not that brave, just ensure that the rest of your diet includes plenty proper sources of fibre like legumes, wholegrains and fresh fruit and vegetables.  For me, my frothy fresh green juice has become a daily, ‘extra’ which I take first thing in the morning.  It is by no means a meal replacement or part of any fad diet to lose weight.  This is just about balancing my body and filling it with the goodness it needs to be of optimum health.  Do ensure you are prepared to sit down for a moment or two after your first cup, to savour the moment yes, but also to steady the legs – I felt an extraordinary high after drinking mine!

A couple of tips to get you started:

1. This form of ‘juicing’ refers to the extraction of nutritional goodness from beneficial, largely dark leafy greens – not that thick, sweet, fruit smoothie shake you’ve been blending (Although those are of course awesome as a treat!)

2. SOURCE YOUR GREENS RESPONSIBLY! I cannot emphasise enough, how important it is that you use homegrown, local or organic produce in your diet – particularly in your juice which is super concentrated. Go find that farm shop!

3. Kit yourself out! Blenders and food processors are great but do try to pick up a juicer, there are brilliant options available for all budgets. It doesn’t have to be professional standard – a simple model will get you started and won’t blow the budget.

4. Drink your juice right away.  Unless you have a really expensive piece of kit, the juice produced from most at-home juicers needs to be consumed within 30 minutes before it starts to spoil.

5. Have fun with it! Try swapping in different fruit and vegetables to enhance the taste and nutrition of your juice.  You will find an apple in most green juice recipes – why not try swapping for a pear?  Remember, don’t overdo it with the sweet fruits – its all about the greens!

6. Top tip from my lovely local farm shop owner; soak your greens first to hydrate them which will not only flush out those pesky minibeasts (Caterpillar, anyone?) but will optimise the amount of juice you are able to extract.

My fave green juice recipe so far:

  • About six kale leaves, soaked
  • A large handful of spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • One medium size carrot, whole
  • One apple, whole
  • 1/2 a lemon, peeled
  • A 1 inch (or less!) chunk of ginger, peeled
  • A handful of mint leaves (Or any other flavoursome fresh herb!)

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Start by juicing the greens, lemon and the ginger and then finish by pushing in the cucumber, carrot and apple. Give it a stir and pour into a clean glass to enjoy immediately!

 

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This frothy green goodness tastes surprisingly delicious!

So have I convinced you?  Are you rushing out the door as we speak on a juice-kit pilgrimage? Or are you a pro with recipes to share? Please do 🙂

A New Path to Wellness

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, nor did I give up a vice for Lent.  It wouldn’t have been enough. I needed permanence, I needed a new path…I needed more.

Or was it actually less that I craved?  It’s all down to perspective in the end; is your glass half-full or half empty?

My eyes were opened in stunning fashion a couple of years ago when I was introduced to Dru Yoga at a local prenatal yoga class in fear of having to endure another terrifying labour ending in surgery, as I did with my first and wanting to try anything, anything to help my body through it this time.  I practised yoga weekly throughout my second and third trimester and in the end, was lucky enough to have a text-book, drug-free, natural birth.  Though I will always be skeptical about the physiological role yoga played in this experience –  I haven’t ever been able to forget about it. I have, since then sporadically kept up my yoga practice but have only recently begun to indulge in the wider ethos and lifestyle around yoga and wellness.

I never felt so alive and attuned, as when in a yoga session and the meditative phases allow my highly-strung, busy mind to slow and to clear.  The wider lifestyle, I would suggest, is all part of the same ethos; wellness. Or if you are sensitive to the term, plainly; ‘being well’.  I had already, for a number of years, been thoroughly adopting a ‘greener’ lifestyle through food and home product choices, visiting farm shops and markets as well as using British (largely) organic food companies like Abel and Cole to provide the majority of our grocery shopping.  I am an avid re-cycler and re-user and enjoy experimenting with the use of homemade cleaning products for bath and home. I have recently embraced vegetarianism again, which is something I first did as a would-be activist youth wanting to save the world, but let slip as I grew ever-more occupied by pressing societal concerns that all teens experience; like peer-pressure and conformity and commercialism. Yuk.  I let my true self go in order to conform and have it easy – eating meat was easy. Though it never did sit well with me and this time, I won’t look back.  To compliment my diet and boost my nutritional intake, I have in the past few days begun consuming ‘green juice’  (recipes, product review and experience to follow!) and am already feeling the benefits. (Yes truly!)

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I still have much to learn, and there are certain aspects of this wider lifestyle that I am yet to fully embrace.  Meditation is one of them and is something that has had a profound affect on me when in a guided session with Alison or one of my countless audio apps but I have yet to perfect meditation at home (Something to do with two very loud and demanding children perhaps?!)  The other one is positive mental attitude.  As a mother with a high-pressure job, this aspect is my nemesis but also, for the aforementioned reasons exactly, the most valuable.

Here are my personal six-steps to wellness for 2014:

1. Meditate daily – starting each day with clarity and stillness.

2. Put down the smartphone – be present!

3. Practise yoga regularly.

4. Embrace a vegan diet – indulge as much as possible in non animal-derived products.

5. Juice daily! Juicing vastly increases the amount of vitamins, nutrients and those cancer-fighting phytochemicals you can take from raw superfoods such as kale.

6. Write/read/walk/observe/reflect –  be creative and indulge in the things that make you happy!

 

What are your favourite wellness tips? Please do share any of your own super tips for a happy, healthy 2014!