Category Archives: Nutrition

Our Wildlife Garden & Summer Fruits Energy Shake (‘Breakfast in a Glass’)

What a glorious summer we’ve had this year! After a spell of wet, overcast summers, it was such a refreshing change to have blue skies and sunshine for pretty much the whole of July and August.  I absolutely loved it and took every opportunity I could to be outside, making the most of it

The plants and insects clearly loved the weather too!  This year, I decided to let the failed ‘veggie’ patch grow wild and turn it into a little haven for wildlife.

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 1 500

The whole summer it’s been a hive of activity, filled with all manner of bee, butterfly and beetle. We’ve also had baby toads and slow worms living in there too!

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 3 500

Does anyone know the name of the yellow plant below? I think it’s beautiful and it doesn’t get munched at all. As soon as I know its name, I’ll add it to my list of slug and snail resistant plants 🙂

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 4 500

We’ve also had success growing raspberries in the patch 🙂 A generous friend gave me six plants earlier this summer, and by late August they were already producing fruit. This raspberry is golden yellow in colour, which seems to make it less appealing to the birds. While the leaves of the plant have been munched, the fruits haven’t been touched at all!

Raspberries September 2013

Normally at this time of year, I would be out on my bike foraging for blackberries, but this year there was no need. By leaving the garden wild, we ended up with our own bumper crop!

Blackberries 4

In the mornings, I’ve been enjoying energy shakes for breakfast, made with a cup of freshly picked blackberries. By adding in some oats, ground almonds and chia seeds, the shake becomes a very satisfying ‘breakfast in a glass’. The additions make the shake so filling that I don’t get hungry all morning!

Blackberries 3

This shake also makes a fantastic post-exercise recovery drink and after-school ‘snack’ to revive energy levels.  I find they’re especially useful as a filling, energy booster on weekday nights when Lil’ L has after-school activities and dinner is going to be served late.

Blackberry Shake 1 500 copy

These smoothies have been a great way to encourage Lil’ L to eat berries. He still won’t go anywhere near whole berries (it’s a ‘texture thing’) but he’ll happily gulp them down in a shake. When he was little, I used to blend the berries and milk first, then strain it to make it completely smooth before blending in the remaining ingredients. These days, he’s happy to drink the smoothies straight up, pips and all!

Here’s how we make them:

And to make to even more scrumptious, I like to top off my shake with some ground cacao nibs 🙂

Berry Shake with Cacao Nibs 1 500 copy

The Good Stuff ♥
Blackberries – Fantastic immunity boosters, packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C. Also a great source of dietary fibre, vitamin K, and manganese
Fortified soya milk & yoghurt – Good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, yoghurt cultures
Oats – Provides slow-release energy

Almonds – Provides protein. Rich source of antioxidant Vitamin E, riboflavin, manganese and magnesium

Chia seeds – Good source of protein and dietary fibre. Rich in calcium, manganese, phosphorous and omega 3 fat
Cacao Nibs – Packed with nutrients, including lots of antioxidants. Check out my raw chocolate post to find out more.

Products used in this recipe
Alpro soya milk and plain soya yoghurt (available in all major UK supermarkets)
Mornflake Superfast Oats (available from Tesco and Asda)
Chia seeds (available from health food stores and online. I purchased mine from Earthfare)
Duronic 1200 1.8 litre Jug Blender, available from Amazon

Cacao nibs – available from health food stores and online. I use the Elements for Life Cacao Nib Grinder

 

Have you had any success growing fruits or veggies this year? Do you ever go foraging?

 

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Filed under Breakfast & Elevenses, Drinks, Growing Fruit & Veggies, Healthy Snacking, Nutrition, The Garden

We ♥ Hemp & A Good Hemp Giveaway

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll have noticed that hemp seeds appear in a lot of my meals.  It crops up in breakfasts, lunches, dinners, smoothies and even hot chocolate!  I have huge respect for this super seed, both for its nutritional content and positive impact on the environment.

Shelled_hemp_seed 500

Source

 

On the nutritional front, hemp seeds are little powerhouses, packed with protein, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and minerals.

Nutritional Qualities of Hemp Seed
A complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids
Very high protein content (over 30%)
Low in saturated fat
Excellent source of omega 3 and omega 6, and in the ideal ratio for your body to absorb it
Natural source of Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA)
Rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E
Great source of magnesium, zinc and iron

Health Benefits of Hemp Seed
Increases energy levels and metabolic rate
Lowers blood pressure
Improves organ function
Boosts immunity levels
Helps circulation
Reduces inflammation and symptoms of arthritis
Reduces symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramps
Builds strong, healthy hair, skin and nails
Low allergen and easy to digest

Though hemp comes from a variety of cannabis sativa, the plant contains extremely low levels (0.02% or less) of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (levels comparable to the amount of opium found in poppy seeds).  Here in the UK, it’s legal to grow industrial hemp for culinary purposes.

Hemp Crop in Peasenhall Road, Walpole, UK 500

Source

 

The production of hemp seed actually has a positive impact on the environment!

Hemp seeds on plant 500

Source

 

Environmental Benefits of Hemp Seed
A very efficient carbon sequester, locking up to four times as much carbon as a similar size field of trees
One of the world’s most sustainable crops
Extremely easy to cultivate with fantastic yields
Can be grown entirely herbicide and pesticide-free
Excellent for soil structure and health
Doesn’t require any weed control during the growing period (either mechanical or chemical)
Fastest growing plant in the world after bamboo, shooting up 4 metres in 14 weeks

We ♥ Hemp
As a plant-powered family, we consume hemp seed as one of the main sources of our omega 3 intake (along with flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts).  Since heat can destroy their valuable omega 3 properties, we tend to sprinkle hemp seed into our meals once they are prepared.  Until recently, I’d only ever used plain, shelled hemp seed so I was delighted when I was contacted by Braham & Murray (the company behind Good Hemp) and asked whether I would like to try their new range called ‘Good Seed’.  In addition to the plain variety, they’ve created three flavoured blends: Sweet Cinnamon, Asian Spices and Italian Herbs. All four of them are perfect for sprinkling!

I have to say that these products have been thoroughly tested by my family.  We’ve used at least one of the blends every day for the past month or so!  Here’s a rundown of our favourite ways to enjoy them.

The Sweet Cinnamon blend (hemp seed, ground cinnamon, sugar) has been sprinkled onto breakfast cereals, porridge, and blended into smoothies.

Good Hemp Sweet Cinnamon

The Italian Herbs blend (hemp seed, coriander, salt, oregano, basil, garlic powder) has been wonderful for sprinkling into pasta dishes and on top of pizzas and soups…

Good Hemp Italian Herbs 1

while the Asian Spices blend (hemp seed, oregano, sweet chilli, smoke paprika, garlic powder) has been perfect for adding to curries and stir fries.

Good Hemp Asian Spices

The plain Shelled Hemp has been sprinkled into a whole array of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and smoothies.

Good Hemp Shelled Seeds

We found that all four blends are also great for sprinkling into sandwiches and wraps.

Falafel Wrap

As companies go, I really value Braham and Murray as they take great care to produce a quality product in harmony with the environment.  All their hemp is grown in the UK and is entirely herbicide and pesticide free.  They make use of the entire hemp plant, so nothing goes to waste.

The seed is used for food.
The straw is used to create sustainable building materials for Eco houses.
The fibre is supplied to BMW for the doors of 3 & 5 Series cars (the fibre reduces the weight per car by approximately 1kg, thus enabling fuel efficiency).
The dust cleaned from the seed is supplied to worm farms.
Leaf matter supplies essential nutrients back to the soil as a natural fertiliser.

Giveaway Time! NOW CLOSED!
I’m very delighted to tell you that Braham and Murray have kindly offered to give away three of their Good Seed products to my wonderful readers.  To be in with a chance of winning one of the pots, simply leave me a comment below stating which of the blends you would like to try: Sweet Cinnamon, Italian Herbs, Asian Spices or Plain Shelled Hemp.

There are two bonus ways of entering the giveaway:

– ‘Like’ the Braham and Murray Good Hemp Facebook page, and leave me a comment below stating that you have done so.

– Follow Good Hemp on Twitter @Good_Oil or @GoodHempNutri, and leave me a comment below stating that you have done so.

I’m afraid that this giveaway is UK only, so apologies to my international followers.

The closing date is Thursday 28th February 2013, at midnight GMT.

Good luck everyone!

Are you a fan of hemp seed?  If so, what’s your favourite way of eating it?

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Filed under Nutrition

A Weekend of Treats, Rounded off with a Raw Chocolate Orange Chia Dessert!

Hi everyone!  I hope you are having a great week so far! 🙂

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday but I was busy all day taking photographs for “the book”!  My aim is to get all the photos finished by Easter, which isn’t far off considering how quickly the weeks are flying by!

So how was your weekend?  For us, it was a weekend of “treats”!  Lil’ L had the treat of going to stay for a night with his lovely nanny in Dorset, while M and I went for our belated Valentine’s night away at Carey’s Manor in Brockenhurst, Hampshire.

This place is pretty special…

[Source]

and has the most beautiful Thai-style spa with hydrotherapy facilities.

 [Source]

Okay, I’ll stop the photos now 😉

This was our first ‘date night’ in months and it was nice to go somewhere special and spend some quality time together.  We reduced the costs as much as possible by staying on the Friday night (thus avoiding the Saturday night supplements), and we also took advantage of the hotel’s special free evening meal offer.

We were booked into the hotel’s Manor Restaurant for our evening meal, and I can happily report that the chef rose to the challenge of meeting my dietary requirements 😉  I didn’t take any photos as it wasn’t the type of restaurant where you can whip out your camera and start snapping the food , but here’s a quick run down of what they served me:

Entree – strawberry sorbet (M was given a white onion cappuccino which sounds bizarre to me, but apparently it was really nice!)

Starter – beetroot carpaccio with mushrooms, rocket and a balsamic dressing.

Main course – wild mushroom risotto…which they made with soya milk for me!

Dessert – pineapple carpaccio with shredded basil and coconut sorbet.

All courses were totally delicious!  I really want to have a try at making both the beetroot and pineapple carpaccios as they were stunning!

After our meal, M and I stayed in the lounge until 1 in the morning chatting.  We haven’t had an opportunity to do that in a long time.  It was really nice! 🙂

The next day, we met my mum and Lil’ L in Burley.  Every time I visit this village, I have to stop at the Old Farmhouse Tearooms for a soy cappuccino and slice of their ginger cake.  That cake is dairy free and gluten free… and totally scrumptious!

We then took a circular walk on the common to walk off our cake.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, it was warm enough to not wear a coat.  Is this really February?  The crazy weather continues!

Along the walk, we saw lots of this beautiful yellow gorse…

We warned Lil’ L that it’s really prickly but you know kids.. they have to find out for themselves 😉

We also came across lots of these beautiful little New Forest ponies.  So cute!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.  Lil’ L loved his time with nanny and, since M and I rarely go on dates these days (perhaps 2-3 times a year?), we really cherished our night away.  M has suggested that we do it again later this year and I’m totally up for that!

As you can imagine, I did very little cooking this weekend …. but I did make a raw chocolate orange chia pudding!  I’ve only recently started to buy chia seeds as they have been hard to come by in this country.  Local to me, they’re now available from the Harvest Health Food shop in Bath.  I also purchase them from online stores including Healthy SuppliesElements for Life, and Earthfare.  I find that the cost of chia seeds can really vary from one store to another, and at different times of year, so I always make sure I shop around.

[Source]

These seeds come from the beautiful chia plant, which belongs to the mint family (salvia hispanica).

[Source]

I’ve read so much good stuff about them on the Internet.  Here’s a quick rundown of its nutritional profile:

  • Chia is a very rich source of omega 3 essential fatty acid
  • It is a good source of protein, and contains all 9 essential amino acids.
  • It is high in dietary fibre.
  • It’s easily digested and absorbs more than 9 times its weight in liquid when soaked, helping to regulate blood sugar and hydration.
  • Chia is a good source of minerals, notably phosphorus, manganese, calcium and zinc.

They sound like another “super food” to me!

[Source]

The seeds have been eaten throughout Central and Southern America for thousands of years, and were part of the staple diet of the Aztecs and Indians.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that chia seeds have a history of safe use as a food.  However, for some reason (which I’m yet to fathom out) these little seeds have been classed as a “novel food” under the EU Novel Food Act 1997.  This means that when you buy chia seeds in Europe, they have a big label on the packet that they can only be consumed as an ingredient for baked goods comprising a maximum 5% of the content!

Since I haven’t read anything on the Internet about chia seeds being harmful and, on the contrary, have read time and again about the health benefits of this little seed, I’ve joined my fellow American and Canadian health foodie friends in eating chia seeds raw 🙂  If you bake them, you lose the omega 3 content which, to me, defeats the object of eating them in the first place.

And in their raw form, chia seeds make the most AMAZING chocolate desserts!  Chocolate orange is my current favourite flavour, but I’m looking forward to trying mocha and hazelnut versions.  The possibilities are endless!

It’s so simple to make.  Here’s how I do it:

Do you eat chia seeds?  If so, what is your favourite way of serving them? Please add links to your favourite recipes in the comment section below as I’d love to try them out!

What do you think of the EU law on chia?  Do you think it’s right to class chia as a ‘novel’ food when it’s been around for thousands of years? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week everyone! xx

 

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Dinners, General wittering, Nutrition, Raw Chocolate Making, Walking & Hiking

WIAW – I’ll bring the hemp burgers

Happy Wednesday everybody!

Yep, it’s Wednesday again, which means it’s time for the lovely Jenn’s virtual WIAW  party where the guests post and share their eats.  If you haven’t visited before, you must check out all the amazing pics!

Okay, so here’s what I ate this Wednesday:

Breakfast

Glass of warm water and a slice of lemon (this week I’ve really been enjoying this gentle start to the day, rather than the big cups of black coffee I had last week.  It’s reassuring to know that I’m no longer dependent on coffee to kickstart my day 😉 ) 

Big bowl of porridge into which I added some blueberry fruit spread, chopped walnuts, chopped pecans and sunflower seeds.  It was lush!  With the porridge, I drank a cup of nettle tea.

Lunch

I had to make a quick lunch before I dashed to school to teach my meditation classes, so I grabbed some Scottish oat cakes, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, black olives and cashew nut butter.  I bought a jar of Meridian cashew nut butter for the first time last week, and I’m LOVING it!  I’ll definitely be buying it again 🙂  

Snacks

After school, I enjoyed a 5-minute sitdown with a cup of coffee and a piece of date and zucchini chocolate brownie (which I made last week).  It was a bit of an experiment but it worked out really well (unlike a lot of my experiments 😉 ) 

I’ve never been a big fan of brownies, but I absolutely love this one.  The taste and texture is lush!  Plus, by using no refined sugar, very little oil, and with the addition of dates, zucchini and whole wheat flour, it’s actually a healthy brownie!  What more could we want eh??  Lil’ L has been taking it to school for his lunchtime snack.  I’ve just asked him what he thinks of the brownie and he said “really, really, really nice” 🙂

 

Dinner

I’m really into hemp seed at the moment, and have been using the Good Hemp milk, oil and shelled seeds as a way of adding omega-3 into our meals.  From what I’ve read, hemp is a ‘super food’ as it’s packed with nutrition.  Here’s a few facts I found out about hemp today:

  • It is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids.  It also has a high protein content (see image below).
  • The globulin edestin in hemp seed closely resembles that found in human blood plasma and is completely compatible with the human digestive system, making it easily digested, absorbed and utilised. 
  • Hemp seed contains phytosterols, which have been shown to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol.
  • Hemp seed has a high content of antioxidants (all part of the Vitamin E family).
  • Hemp seed has the perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6.

What an amazing amount of goodness packed into a little seed! 

I’ve been using the Good Hemp shelled hemp seed a lot lately, sprinkling it into breakfasts and on dinners.  For those interested, here’s the nutritional blurb found on the back of the pot:

Good Hemp also makes a hemp protein powder, which M has been trialling whilst mountain bike training.  I don’t think that I do enough exercise to warrant using protein powders, so I’ll leave it to him to review that one 😉

So, with my new love of all things hemp, on Monday I decided to create some hemp seed burgers.  I had very little time on Monday evening as we were going out trick ‘n’ treating, but as per usual with me, when I get the creative urge, I have to pursue it 😉  So, within 20 minutes I’d made the burgers, cooked them, served them, and we were out the door!  I made 8 burgers in total, so we had them for dinner tonight too. 

Lil’ L’s verdict on the hemp burger… deeeeelicious!!!  Yay another winner!   The burgers had a great texture and I thought they tasted a bit like the sausage meat that you find in veggie sausage rolls.  To make the burgers, I used tofu, hemp seeds, chopped onion, minced garlic, soy sauce, tomato puree, ground oats and a little stuffing mix.  (If anyone’s interested, I can post the recipe).  As accompaniments, we had sunflower and sesame seed rolls, roasted butternut squash, red pepper and crispy kale. Delish!

Dessert

For dessert tonight, I had some stewed apples with natural yoghurt, cinnamon and pecans, while Lil’ L finished up the banana cinnamon icecream that we made a couple of weeks ago.  It had gone before I had time to take a photograph, so here’s the pic from last time we had it.

So, that’s me done!  Time to head over to Jenn’s now and check out the lush foodie photos 😉 

Happy WIAW everyone!

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Breakfast & Elevenses, Dinners, Nutrition

The Wonders of Raw Chocolate… and a Yummy Scrummy giveaway!

It’s Chocolate Week here in the UK, so happy chocolate eating everybody!

Those of you who know me will be aware that I’ve become just a teensy weensy bit obsessed with raw chocolate. 😉  For most of my life, I’ve never been that bothered about chocolate… but all this changed when I experienced my first piece of raw chocolate.  As soon as I popped it into my mouth, I could feel its magical properties taking hold.  I was hooked!  I immediately went home and googled ‘raw chocolate’ to see what I could find out about the wonder food.  I also got myself a copy of David Wolfe & Shazzie’s ‘Naked Chocolate’.

Have you ever wondered where cacao beans comes from?  Well, they come from the beautiful Theobrama Cacao.

(c) Luis Ovalles

I love the cocoa pods.  Aren’t they beautiful!  Here’s a shot of them at various stages of ripening.

(c) Medicaster

And here’s a peek at the cacao beans inside one of those beautiful pods:

(c) US Department of Agriculture

And what did I discover from my research? Well, listen carefully chocolate lovers…  raw chocolate is SUPER GOOD FOR YOU!  It’s absolutely brimming with nutrients, which explains why my body felt like it was ‘zinging’ after one small mouthful.  Here’s a list of some of the important nutrients found in raw chocolate:

  • Magnesium (important for a healthy heart, muscle relaxation, strong bones, growth and repair, brain function. Sadly it’s the most deficient mineral in the diet)
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorous
  • Thiamine
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Vitamins B and C
  • Antioxidant flavonols
  • Phenylethylamine (PEA) (dubbed the ‘love chemical’, PEA seems to help create feelings of attraction, excitement and euphoria.  PEA is noticeably abundant in the brains of happy people 🙂 )
  • Anandamide (known as the ‘bliss chemical’.  Anandamide is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘ananda’ meaning ‘bliss’)
  • Stimulates the release of Serotonin, Tryptophan and Dopamine (also powerful mood-enhancing nutrients)
  • Fibre

The above is just a fraction of the nutrients contained in raw chocolate.  It truly is a ‘super food’!

Raw Cacao Beans (c) David Monniaux

Cacao has been dubbed ‘Nature’s Prozac’ as it contains three neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine and phenylethylamine (PEA) – which help alleviate depression and are associated with feelings of well-being.

It has also been suggested that eating raw chocolate can help with weight control as it diminishes appetite.  I’ve experienced this for myself.  In the past, I could have easily guzzled a whole box of milk chocolates.  With raw chocolate, I literally feel full up after one or two small pieces.

So why should we be eating raw chocolate rather than regular chocolate?  Well, most commercial chocolate is highly processed and heated to very high temperatures, which means that most of the nutrients are destroyed or altered.  Commercial chocolate is often loaded with refined sugar, causing energy spikes and slumps, as well as weight gain.  It can also contain processed fat, various synthetic chemicals, artificial preservatives, cheap emulsifiers and other fillers.  Adding dairy milk also blocks the absorption of the great antioxidants in chocolate.

I love making my own chocolates and giving them to friends & family. This is a shot of the Macmillan event where I sold raw chocolate to raise funds for the charity.

At the Love Food Festival in Bath yesterday, I bumped into Dan and Paula from Elements for Life, and I bought some bars of their award-winning Yummy Scrummy raw chocolate brownie.

This delicious raw chocolate brownie is packed with goodness, and topped with lush goji berries.

To celebrate the fact it’s Chocolate Week (and recognising it would indeed be greedy to keep all the bars for myself 😉 ) I’m going to give you guys a chance to win a bar and experience the delights of Yummy Scrummy for themselves.  🙂

To enter the giveaway, simply leave me a comment and describe your  favourite chocolate flavour.  My current 3 favourite flavours are goji berry & nut; orange; and coffee.

The winner will be chosen at random at 7pm (GMT) on Monday 17th October.

Good luck everybody! 

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Filed under Baking & Desserts, Nutrition