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The festive season

If you like me are trying your hardest to eat a healthy well balanced diet, the festive season can be a bit daunting… breaking that healthy eating plan, eating lots of carbs and sugars that you normally restrict, well I am hear to tell you that you can still feel festive whilst keeping on that clean healthy eating track.

After Thanksgiving I decided I am not falling into the pattern of bad eating over the Christmas period, I’m going to keep on my plan with a few little tweaks here and there, my body will most definitely thank me for it.

When we lived in England our Christmas Day meal was a big thing, I get it, the one day of the year you get to eat that great big roast dinner, turkey, all the trimmings, stuffing, roast potatoes, little sausages wrapped in bacon and in our house a big tray of Yorkshire puddings, the veggies were a side plate and not highly thought of. How times of changed for us, not only do Paul and I not eat the meat, but we don’t make roast potatoes anymore, instead they have been replaced with mashed potatoes and the side of veggies is now the star of the show, but there is also another thing that has changed, this meal is only eaten on Thanksgiving now, once Christmas Day rolls around, not only do I not want to repeat that day of preparation but I don’t want to cook that meal again either… so a new tradition has come about in our house, the Christmas Day brunch, eggs, bacon and sausages for the meat eaters, smoked salmon, lots of veggies, avocados, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and sautéed green leaves. Piles of fluffy pancakes topped with fresh fruit and loaves of crispy sour dough bread… in the Instant Pot is a homemade, low sugar baked bean recipe… all served with a little glass of Prosecco or two. Now that is our main meal of the day… no turkey in sight, all healthy delicious, low carb and definitely low sugar, well if you take out the bread and pancakes… ha ha.

Buddha bowls are a big thing in our house, a bowl of well balanced nutrition, you have your perfectly portioned protein, next to your delicious nutritional carbs and then lots of veggies packing a big punch of vitamins, minerals and just wholesome goodness. So with this in mind I am thinking we could have a festive themed Buddha bowl this year later in the day. I love stuffed squash, so this could definitely feature in my bowl along side a crunchy raw Brussels sprout salad, for the meat eaters little turkey stuffing balls and for the non meat eaters, aka Paul and I, walnut cranberry stuffing balls, all topped with a savory dressing and a selection of crunchy nuts and seeds… sounds good, right?

Back from where I come from, Christmas cookies and big tubs of popcorn are not a thing at this time of year, our stores are filled with all kinds of mince pies and Christmas puddings, ready to be topped with delicious brandy sauce… but on my healthy eating plan, I don’t tend to gravitate towards them, so I was thinking I could make a healthy version of the mincemeat with fresh cranberries, dates and a little coconut sugar, then this could be stuffed into apples and baked in the oven, all topped with a creamy oat milk yogurt, not quite as indulgent, but just as delicious. Of course a healthy olive oil popcorn lightly sprinkled with salt is good too, a healthy festive snack if you live in the US.

NOW WHAT ABOUT THE CHOCOLATE? I hear you cry… tins of Quality Street and Roses dance about in my head, childhood memories mixed with treats of Christmas snowball drinks linger here for a while. Minature Heroes and chocolate covered Brazil nuts all feature in my Christmas’s past and present… but now I totally look at chocolate in a new way, of course we all need a treat, but the way I see it is small portions, tiny chocolates, a few mini peanut cups from Trader Joe’s here and there will never hurt, mix in some healthy raw nuts and you get a great combination, a little sweet mixed with healthy nutrients. So this will be my new treats, even over Christmas, I think a little of what you love is good for your soul, but always remember to add in the good things to help your body process them more efficiently.

The one thing you can be assured of, that is not only healthy, full of vitamin c to help you through this bitterly cold few months, tastes delicious… is satsumas, mandarins and clementines make a healthy festive treat, they always feature in Santa’s stockings, so you know they must be good… Ho Ho Ho.

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Why do we green juice every day?

Every morning Paul and I (and Mabel when she is here) drink a full glass of green juice before we put anything else in our bodies, we wait anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour to allow all the nutrition to digest and absorb, then we continue as normal with our day… it is such a great way to start the day, well that’s once you get used to the taste, which believe me takes a while.

Why I hear you all ask do we drink green juice, well according to research we should always start our day with some kind of citrus fruit to balance our PH levels after sleeping all night, also it’s an optimum time after we have fasted all night for our body to effectively absorb this power house of nutrition… I started it after I joined a group on Facebook for natural healing for psoriasis, everyone was raving about how celery juice had helped to clear the psoriasis patches they had on their bodies, so me being me, thought ‘why not give this a try’… and so my not so original green juice recipe came about.

I have been making and drinking green juice for about 4 months now, I have noticed a few things, my digestion works much better, the fiber from the juice helps to keep everything running regular, I know, I know… TMI, my skin looks and feels better, I feel so much better in myself after I’ve drunk it and I have noticed an improvement in my psoriasis patches.

SO WHAT GOES INTO THIS MAGIC GREEN NECTAR?

The first ingredient is CELERY… The benefits of celery are all right here in this link. Very low in carbs, but very high in fiber, making it perfect for those of us who are on a low carb diet for whatever reason we have. It is also a fat free food, which is always a plus in my book and it has very minimal protein value, And to top everything off, celery packs a punch with vital micro nutrients, vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, and folate 2… a very under rated superfood.

My second ingredient is KALE… The benefits of kale can be found right here. For a vegetable kale is protein rich 3 grams to be exact, it is great on the fiber front which really helps to control your blood sugar levels. It is full of vitamin, minerals and even contains omega 3, which is most definitely important if you are managing auto immune disorders.

Last but not least, my third ingredient is LEMON… Lemons what can I say, a great way to start our day, balance our PH levels, fantastic if you are on an alkaline diet, full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamin C and folate. When life gives you lemons jump for joy and enjoy everything about them.

Of course this is just my basic recipe, ingredients I always make sure I have in, but of course green juice can be made with anything, Trader Joe’s have a fantastic bag of greens made for juicing, when the farmer market is in full swing I have been known to add some chard leaves, radish leaves and of course fresh spinach is a power house of nutrition. Apples, clementines, pomegranate seeds, the list is endless, they add a nice sweetness, I’ve added carrots, broccoli, even a little baby cauliflower… but when it comes to green juicing my basic recipe is always the same, healthy, nutritious and after a while it actually tastes delicious.

So for anyone who is interested in green juicing this is my recipe for two people…

4 to 6 sticks of celery washed and chopped into approximately 1 inch pieces

2 cups of chopped kale, stalks included.

1 whole lemon, I roughly take off the skin, don’t worry too much, then I add the whole lemon, seeds included.

2 cups of water and ice cubes, ice cubes are optional but I really like my juice on the colder side.

Place all the ingredients in your blender jug, blitz on medium for a couple of minutes, time will vary depending on the type of blender you have. Now you can drink this with the pulp if you like, personally I sieve my juice through a strainer, of course I never throw anything away, so I keep the pulp and use it in other recipes, I have been known to make an awesome green egg white frittata for breakfast, my secret ingredient in my bolognese is green juice pulp, it adds flavor and nutrition to casseroles and it’s delicious added into a homemade broth, so never throw away that pulp, you can use it in so many things and no one will ever know it’s in there… shhh, what they don’t know will never hurt them, it will serve to make them feel better.

I always try to buy organic fresh ingredients when I can, the farmers market is my happy place, but I know it’s not always possible so here is a little tip if your fruit and vegetables are not organic, try soaking them in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar for about 10 to 15 minutes, alternatively scrub the veggies and fruit with a vegetable scrub, I use one from Trader Joe’s when I need to.

Now green juicing is an acquired taste, believe me when you first taste that juice you will think am I completely mad to be doing this, Mabel described it like salad in juice form, and not the good kind either, but the more you do it, the more your tastebuds will become accustomed to it, you might even think it is delicious one day… but there is one thing that will happen for sure… your body will most definitely thank you for it, your skin will glow, your joints will feel more supple, and your digestive system will be so very happy… so go give it a try, what do you have to lose?

Oh and don’t throw your lemon peels away, always leave a bit of flesh on them and add them to your water, you will be surprised what wonderful flavor and value it adds to your plain old water.

Since writing this a week ago, I have added in a couple more ingredients to my basic recipe, half a thumbs worth of ginger, don’t bother peeling it just throw it into the blender the way it is and then add about 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric dissolved in a tablespoon of boiling water, if you can get the whole root definitely use that, but if not powdered turmeric will work fine… the zing these ingredients give the juice is amazing… there is a little story behind these two new ingredients and they include Mabel and a visit to Trader Joe’s recently, she bought a little healthy power shot of juice, the ingredients were like my green juice recipe but added in were ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper, you drink it like a shot, it is meant to help boost your immune system, well it got me thinking, I have turmeric in my cupboards and a large container of organic ginger root in the refrigerator, maybe I should add this into my recipe, and so my new new recipe is born, I’m yet to be brave enough to add a little pinch of cayenne… maybe one day... Happy juicing everyone.

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It’s all about warm Winter salads this week.

I am often asked how I balance out my menus for so many different diets… my trick is to make a dish that items can be added or taken away, and salads are perfect for this, they are also a great way to change up the seasonal vegetables… Fall and Winter Salads are delicious, lots of roasted squashes, butternut, acorn and even my favorite squash the delicata, switch it up, try different squashes to keep dishes interesting, you can even throw in some sweet potatoes or yams.

Fill your salad with lots of seasonal greens, kale is a firm favorite in my house as long as it’s finely chopped I will add, it is full of nutrition and it works well in a robust winter salad, add in some spinach, and toss in some arugula (rocket) leaves for a little peppery spice. Next on my winter salad is broccoli or cauliflower, chopped finely, again for the fussy eaters in my house, it’s raw and totally delicious, blended with the other ingredients you will hardly know it’s in there.

Add in some carbohydrates, always whole grain as Jamie would say, quinoa is high in protein, farro, barley, wild rice, brown rice, whole grain couscous… your options are limitless, switch it up add potatoes, celeriac is a great choice roasted or add a little whole grain pasta, again so many different shapes and sizes out there.

Keep your portion sizes small for carbs, balance this out with all the glorious veggies out there, you can add ribbons of carrots, chopped red onions, one of my new favorite things to bake and add to salads is the humble beet, add chopped cabbage, red or green it works so well in a robust winter salad, add in some grape tomatoes, thinly sliced asparagus spears… just have fun, think lots veggies and think about eating lots of different colors within your dish.

Well I will put my hand up and say I never used to like fruit in my salad, I don’t know what it was about the sweet and savory combination, but it definitely was not my favorite, fast forward a few years and I love it, it just goes to show if you persist you can grow to love all different kinds of foods… anyway my go to fruit for my winter salad is pomegranate, the juice as you tap those little nutrition packed seeds onto your salad add into the dish to create its own dressing, they are bright and vibrant, and most definitely add a pop of color and nutrition to your plate. Apples and pears are definitely in season right now, so think about slicing or chopping and tossing them throughout your dish to add in some sweetness.

Last but not least is your protein, well this one is easy if you are a meat eater, seared turmeric chicken Jamie Oliver style is one protein that packs a punch of flavor and is an excellent anti inflammatory aiding dish. Perfect pork belly is a fantastic protein to add to a robust winter salad. The list goes on, spicy sausages, apple sausages add a touch of Fall flavor, crispy ground beef, perfectly seared slices of steak… take your pick they are all fantastic to add to any salad dish.

Now if you are a vegetarian or vegan beans and lentils are a perfect accompaniment for your salad, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans in all shapes and sizes, you can flavor them or you can just toss them in as they are. Now I am a huge lentil fan, red, green, French, I just love lentils, add them into a salad or make a soup to go on the side, they definitely are a great protein for a salad, Spring or Summer, Fall or Winter. Of course eggs are not vegan, but they are a powerhouse of nutrition, boil them and have them on the side of your salad, make an omelette to eat with your salad, either way eggs are good with everything. Avocados, what can I say, it’s protein packed along with other nutrition, it’s most definitely delicious and I know Florrie, Mabel and I could eat them all day and every day… add them to salad and you will most definitely be smiling.

In my house we are split with dressings and toppings, some of us love a good salad dressing, some of us like it creamy, some of us like it acidic, some of us even like our salad dry with no dressing… WHAT? I know that is crazy right? Whatever way we like our salad dressing, just make it healthy and delicious. I always leave my salad undressed, then everyone gets to choose how they want to eat it. Toppings are the same, some people do not like nuts, other like seeds, have fun add some crunch to your salad your way, think sesame or hemp seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, nuts, nuts and more nuts, throw on whatever you have in and crunch away.

I could eat salad every day, that combined with a good yummy comforting soup is perfect Winter food for me… here are a few ideas to help plan your meals for this week, remember always have fun, get your children chopping, get them to help with each recipe, what I find in my house is if they have contributed to making our meal they are more willing to try it.

Tomato farro salad

Harvest salad

Warm Winter salad

Superb squash soup

Spiced parsnip and lentil soup with chili oil

English onion soup

Salads are a great way to eat the rainbow, they can be a complete meal with all of your food groups on one plate. Something that Jamie said in his Superfoods show was to add feta over your salad, not too much, think of it as a seasoning, that is most definitely my new way of thinking, another quick tip is to turn a can of garbanzo beans into hummus, spread it onto your plate and place your salad on top, a great protein , with great flavor… however you make your salad, have fun, chop away, different shapes and sizes, add texture and color, your body will definitely love you for it. ♥️