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Updated… almost Vegan, but not quite.

I’ve made a lot of vegan meals and experimented with vegan ingredients in old favorite recipes since I’ve been back from vacation… I have to say without a doubt they have all been delicious, using egg substitutes in waffles and baking was easy, and cutting down on oil in cakes using apple sauce has worked well, although I have been doing that for quite a while… I can even say the vegan, soy free provolone cheese is ok as long as it’s melted, but it’s good for that odd craving of something melty over your pasta or in a sandwich.

I plan nutritional breakfasts for Paul to take to work with him every day, this is one of my favorites gluten free, now vegan waffles, of course if you add dairy chocolate it makes it not vegan but as Paul is in no way vegan I treated him to a few chocolate nibbles to go with the unsweetened coconut on top of his waffles. I have made him vegan, dairy and gluten free breakfast every morning for the past two weeks including a vegan omelette and he has not complained once. I try to make my breakfast for the day with enough for two then Paul has it the next day… it’s worked well so far.

I have been almost dairy free for many years now, using nut or plant based milks in everything, but I had never thought to make it myself… until I started researching this Vegan trend, it was a complete surprise just how easy it was, you take your nuts or seeds and soak them for a few hours then you blend them in a blender with water, the amount of water depends on the consistency you require, I was making a cashew nut cream so obviously the liquid was less, but the outcome was delicious and I have used it in all my recipes instead of cream or yogurt. I also made a broccoli cream soup using the same technique, as you cooked your broccoli in broth you had sunflower seeds cooking with it soaking in the broth, once the broccoli was cooked you blended everything together including the sunflower seeds giving a nice creamy soup consistency… just delicious.

Now as any Vegetarian/Vegan knows a plant based diet includes a lot of chopping and prepping and when you have a super large family you need a little helping hand… I was on Facebook one day and this super fast chopping machine was being advertised, well I’m not usually one to watch the shopping channel or get hooked into buying something on screen, but this had me hooked, Paul was trying to tell me he found chopping therapeutic, but I guess when you do it once in a while it could be, but day after day, it really is not so much fun, or indeed therapeutic, so I took the plunge and ordered it… Paul was worried I would slice my finger on the blades and his worries were not unfounded as within the first 24 hours of owning my Veggie Bullet I have sliced my thumb twice, but you learn very quickly from your mistakes. After a shaky start, slicing my thumb, using the wrong lids for slicing and spiralizing, I have finally mastered my veggie bullet and I love it, there is quite a bit to wash up but my plan is to prep my veggies once a week looking at all my recipes… onions sliced thinly in seconds, eggplant sliced in less seconds than it took me to wash it, sweet potatoes spiralized before I could even heat the oil… it’s crazy and I will use it for a weeks worth of chopping preparation each week, with only one wash up required for the whole week.

So far each recipe I have made has been very tasty and nutritious, we have had Vietnamese noodle bowls, roasted veggie bowls, green lentil and spinach curry, roasted tomato soup with roasted rosemary potatoes, creamy broccoli soup, super easy green pasta and tonight we are having black bean taquitos with an enchilada sauce… each meal I make has to be planned with precision, gluten free, dairy free and a meat protein to accompany the dish, as I cannot make everyone give up meat, even though I would secretly love that and my food budget would sigh with relief if I didn’t have to include meat. Even when I made a creamy broccoli pasta no one guessed it did not contain milk or cheese, the roasted tomato soup was full of flavor and the broccoli soup was creamy just by using sunflower seeds, so even the veggie haters in my house have enjoyed the vegan dishes plus a little meat on the side for good measure.

On a final note… I came across this Pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe when baking with my children the other day, I’ve never used arrowroot in my baking before and I wasn’t sure about it, but these gluten free, dairy free, vegan cookies were so delicious not one person guessed quite how healthy they actually were.

Am I going to declare myself a Vegan? Not quite, my love of sushi and a good cheeseboard occasionally are something I just don’t want to give up… but on the whole, day to day it feels good to eat like this, healthy, nutrition that is plant based, it is definitely much easier than I thought to leave out the dairy, including cheese and eggs, the recipes are delicious and flavorful… so almost a Vegan is just good enough for me.

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Do we really need a label for the way choose our diet?

Food and nutrition are a very important part of my life… I was a vegetarian in my teens, but then slipped into eating meat again as I had a family to cook for… in all honesty though I really don’t love meat and it is so easy for me to not eat it at all, being a vegetarian is easy for me but I can’t fully commit as I love fish, I don’t eat a lot but I totally still have it sometimes… I guess if we have to label it, I am a pescatarian, but as I hate labels I’m not going to go there with that one.

We have just returned from a trip back to England to visit family and friends, my husbands family seem to have all become Vegans, well not all of them but two of his siblings and their families… the thing I observed about Vegans is that it really is a trend at the moment, and new Vegans, not saying all new Vegans of course, seem to have to announce to everyone that they are Vegan and talk constantly about being a Vegan, I was wondering why that is, but it also had me intrigued, I have issues with dairy myself, I’ve replaced most dairy products in my diet and have found more comfort in my digestive system, but I do eat cheese occasionally and eggs most days… so being the researcher I am I decided to see if I could replace these things from my diet completely without missing them too much.

What I have found is very interesting… it seems on first glance that most vegan recipes are nutritionally balanced, the seasoning and flavors are enhanced to give delicious flavors and my favorite beans and lentils feature heavily. Eggs are replaced with a garbanzo bean flour batter and tofu scramble, cheese flavor is replaced with nutritional yeast, totally a healthy additive to use in your cooking. Egg replacements, like flax or chia seed egg are used in baking… so I’m set to change the way I cook and bake… no label for me though as this healthy eating Mama still loves her fish occasionally.

My first day back with jet lag still looming I made two vegan soups, one for lunch and one in the evening to go with grilled sandwiches… my lunch soup was delicious, Sweet potato and rice noodle soup with broccoli and white beans success, it was delicious and my husband had no idea it was Vegan, in the afternoon I set the broccoli, 2 cups of vegan broth, 2 cups of water and raw sunflower seeds in my slow cooker, I set it to cook for 3 hours on high, the Easiest cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup recipe really was, I finished the soup by blending the ingredients for 3 minutes in my blender, replacing it into the slow cooker and adding the remaining ingredients to warm through again… it was the best broccoli soup I’ve ever made, minus the cauliflower as I couldn’t get any organic cauliflower from the grocery store. For grilled sandwiches everyone except me had warm chicken and cheese, I decided to try vegan provolone cheese slices with my gluten free bread… after I melted the cheese and toasted the bread I really couldn’t tell a lot of difference with the cheese… again another success and I have leftovers for my lunch today, another win for me.

Today we started our day with waffles, gluten free, dairy free, egg free and Vegan, I took my favorite basic waffle mix and changed it slighly…

Serves 4 people

Each serving 2 waffles 188 calories

1/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/2 cup cashew nut milk (use whatever dairy free milk you have in)

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon of agave

2 teaspoons of GF baking powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of vegan egg substitute and 2 tablespoons of water mixed together

1 tablespoon of milled flax seed

Blend all ingredients together until your batter is smooth… place 1/4 cup into your heated and oiled waffle make, close the lid and wait… when they are risen and golden serve with whatever you desire… as we just got back from vacation we had very little in our house, so I served ours with almond butter, cinnamon sunflower seeds and coconut toasted flakes… delicious and super nutritious.

I am now totally converted after making a vegan omelette with garbanzo bean flour, the chickpea and onion omelette is now a firm replacement for using eggs, I added nutritional yeast for a little cheese flavor and served it with toasted gluten free bread, a healthy protein packed breakfast all under 200 calories… the options are endless on this one!

It will be an interesting experiment, let’s see if anyone notices a change in the menus… I will still cook a meat protein to go with the meals, but I will be curious to see if anyone notices the very slight change… of course sushi days will still happen for me and I will still eat some gorgeous fish too, but I’m looking forward to eliminating dairy completely just for a while 🤞

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We are what we eat…

Getting older sucks… I have gained weight and I haven’t changed the way I eat, your metabolism slows down and the middle age spread begins… are you kidding me? Really?

Ok, so I admit I really do need to excercise more, but I’m a busy Mom of 8 children, I include my older ones too, from first thing in the morning until I sit down with that much needed glass of wine I’m on my feet rushing from here to there, but according to my OBGYN that’s not the type of excercise that is going to burn off those calories at my ripe old age, well he didn’t mention the ripe old part, I’ve just added it in so you get the picture… he says I need at least a 20 minute cardio routine per day that will get my heart racing, so even my gentle morning yoga routine does not fit the bill for getting my heart racing I’m afraid. Food is also important and consistency, 4-6 healthy small meals a day, well the small portions are not a problem for me as I’ve never eaten large meals, but 4-6 is a huge problem, I can go hours and sometimes forget to eat… ok so here we go, new me, I am determined to beat this middle age spread.

I love healthy foods, I love salads, I love soups, I love fish, I love veggies, I even love radishes too, so how hard can this be? 4 to 6 small portion meals/snacks a day together with a low impact cardio workout, just to start me off and some yoga to keep my joints supple. The hardest part of a carefully thought through menu plan is the prepping, to have a healthy menu for Paul to go to work with is the planning a prepping the day before… this week we are keeping it simple and doing a ‘let’s see what we can make with what we have in’ using up supplies in our refrigerator, freezer and pantry… so next week we can start a fresh in an organized way… does anyone else do this once a month, to clear out the old ready for the new?

Let’s start with Breakfasts that I can easily prepare in advance… healthy banana, oats and honey waffles, perfectly preprepared and easily transported if you have to go out…

Serves 2
One cup of gluten free oats
I cup of dairy free milk, almond or coconut (if using coconut I suggest 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup water)
1 egg
1/2 a banana
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of raw honey
1 egg
1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon of extra virgin oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about 1 minute… add 1/4 cup of the batter to a lightly oiled waffle maker and let it cook for 2-3 minute.
Serve with fresh fruit, Greek yoghurt or for a dairy free option a tablespoon of almond butter 😋

My next easy to prepare breakfast is raspberry, coconut chia pudding…

Serves 2
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of raw honey
2 1/2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Take the first three ingredients place them in a blender and let them blend for 45 seconds, divide the blended fruit milk into two mason jars then add 2 1/4 tablespoons of chia seeds, place the lid onto the jar and shake to mix the chia seeds, place in the refrigerator over night… top with a few raspberries and a tablespoon of sliced almonds 😋

Now if I’m staying in I love a slice of whole grain gluten free bread with avocado and grape tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glaze and if Paul is going to work I make him a super healthy veggie omelette ready to cook in the microwave for a couple of minutes and a piece of fruit. Another healthy on the go breakfast is a smoothie served with a hard boiled egg for protein.

Lunches are much easier when you are at home, your choice is endless, I love salad, cheese, eggs, veggies, homemade hummus and steamed veggies, but planning a healthy portioned out work lunch takes a lot of prep… 5 meals, 5 healthy carbs, 5 healthy lean proteins and plenty of veggies ready for a busy week of working… quinoa, brown sprouted rice, sweet potatoes, ground turkey meatballs, oregano chicken and Cajun pork, all leftovers from a past week dinners and lots of veggies, but when you are home you can quickly bake some sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper, add in a little arugula and a lightly fried egg, finally whip up a Harrissa dressing… so good 😃

Heathy fish and chicken tacos are my favorite dinner option, polenta crisped salmon and chicken tenders served with warm corn tortillas, salad and a healthy mango salsa, easy healthy and filling. Dinners are always a challenge in my house, some of us need GF carb options, some of us don’t like veggies, some of us are mainly vegetarian, except for a little fish and some of us are such basic eaters that meat and plain pasta is all they will eat. Salad is my friend, I can add a protein and then a healthy carb and it covers most diets in my house… but soup season is on it’s way, although I love Summer, I personally love soups they are so versatile, healthy and can stretch your budget sideways.

Snacks are my biggest challenge for planning ahead, each time we eat we are meant to have a complex carbohydrate, a protein and a fat, so getting that right in a snack is a huge headache for me… protein bites were simple and nutritional for a snack, gf oats, almond butter, honey and then I added chopped nuts dried fruits and seeds. Another idea is brown rice cakes, and almond butter, or fruit and a handful of nuts… but with all the planning snacks still remain something I think about last and quite often forget to eat myself… I am working at it though… slowly 🙃

… and then we always need an occasional treat, I try my hardest to make these treats as healthy as possible, like lemon muffins made with yogurt and honey… light and delicious 😋

Whatever you eat, try to make it nutritional, delicious and make sure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated throughout the day.

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To diet or not to diet?

When I was in my teens I was totally anorexic, I think it never really leaves you completely, I always count up my intake of food each day, and roughly count the calories I have had, even now I feel its pull, but with yoga and meditation I have managed to control the need a little bit better.  I realize now the need to fuel my body with the right foods to hopefully keep me healthy and I am trying to educate my family into thinking the same way.  I have so many picky eaters its hard to fully cook a complete clean eating menu plan for each week, but I definitely try.

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I am absolutely hopeless without menu planning, I've tried not menu planning and my grocery bill goes up, my clean eating plan goes out the window and I feel terrible in myself… so for me menu planning is a way of life and will continue to be even as our children eventually move out.  I love the organization of it, I am even planning breakfast, snacks and lunch now, as Paul and I are on a semi strict carb, protein and fat diet, each meal has to contain at least one of these in healthy form, even the in-between meal snacks.

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Each week I try to focus and use recipes from different cookbooks I own, this past week I have used the Gwyneth Paltrow It's all easy cook book, one of our most surprising favorites for almost everyone was her lemon and herb pasta with cherry tomatoes, I adjusted the recipe slightly to accommodate everyones tastes, I added chopped broccoli first then added the pasta, and once I had served up the tomato haters in my house, I added them to the pan too… all in all it was a winner for the week.

 

I am all about fresh produce these days, I like to buy organic if I can, I have restarted my organic delivery just because it makes menu planning and organic shopping easier.

These rice paper wraps are a firm favorite at the moment…

Take a rice paper wrap and soak for two or three minutes in a bowl of cold water, making sure they are fully covered, whilst they are soaking chop up some crispy romaine lettuce leaves, cucumber, slice an avocado and grate some carrots, next crumble some feta cheese, and shred some chicken breast, if you want to add meat… once the wraps have softened place them onto a sheet of damp kitchen paper, fill with salad ingredients, feta and chicken if using it, wrap just like you would a burrito, keeping it as tight as you can. Serve with a dipping sauce, my favorite is sweet chili but Mabels is a balsamic glaze, the world is your dipping sauce 😋

My clean eating menu plan for this week…

Monday

Breakfast… kale, onion and feta scramble eggs

Lunch… chicken/feta Cobb style salad

Snack… fruit and almond butter

Dinner… taco style burrito bowl skillet (ground turkey and veggie version)

Tuesday

Breakfast… green smoothie with almond milk, kale and apple together with a boiled egg

Lunch… egg salad sandwich with chopped carrots on the side

Dinner vegan BBQ chili… for those meat lovers I will add shredded chicken

Snacks… Apple, celery and nuts

Wednesday

Breakfast… overnight Coconut oatmeal with berries

Lunch… protein salad

Dinner… zucchini pasta with bolognese (for those that do not like zucchini I will cook organic spaghetti

Snack… protein bites

Thursday

Breakfast… GF oatmeal blueberry waffles (easy to take out if made the day before)

Lunch… chicken quinoa salad (and a veggie version to take out with me)

Dinner… chicken/fish tacos with mango salsa and salad

Snack… protein bites

Friday

Breakfast… fruit smoothie using whatever berries and fruit I have in.

Lunch broccoli soup… yes I know it's summer, but I have a huge bag of frozen broccoli

Dinner… cheat day… Pizza Fridays

Snack fruit and nuts

Saturday

Breakfast… egg and Canadian bacon sandwiches or avaocado toast

Lunch… chickpea quinoa salad with a few fresh berries

Dinner… breakfast for dinner, GF waffles with eggs and sausages

Snack… black bean crackers and hummus

Sunday

Breakfast… overnight oats with coconut and ginger

Lunch… avocado and egg toast

Dinner… buffalo chicken and veggie pizza with salad

Snack… black bean crackers and hummus

I adapted my menu from one I found on Pinterest… wish me luck, I have never planned our eating so carefully and to every meal we eat, I am desperate to lose 10lbs, I have been doing a morning yoga session 3 days a week and now I found a simple workout program for two days, I like to give myself the weekend off, maybe just a little meditation to ease my mind and relax me… time to drink some water and start the week 😀

 

 

 

Diet and nutrition, Uncategorized

Chopped Salads… 

I try my very hardest to eat healthy and cleanly as much as I can, of course it’s more difficult when you are out or busy but on the whole we eat a good healthy diet… this is a difficult thing to do when you have a large family of picky eaters.  Getting my two youngest children to eat well is a challenge, I believe in never forcing them to eat, but I do try and encourage them to try something, sometimes they love it, like Florrie with fresh peas at the farm when we were picking them,  she took one taste and loved them, but when I was spiralizing the carrots she asked to taste them and hated them straight away, the face she pulled was quite funny.  I have discovered recently that their best meal of the day is breakfast, they love fresh eggs fried with coconut oil every morning, and now we get freshly laid eggs from our neighbor next door, they are delicious, they love strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and watermelon, they love smoothies and homemade pancakes, Jamie Oliver’s one cup recipe, so simple and quick, they will eat these until the cows come home, they are also delicious when you swap the flour out for a gluten free flour too. I try most days to make breakfast their most important meal of the day as they eat really well, then I feel there  is not so much pressure for the rest of the day as I know they have eaten one good meal that day.


Lunch is another meal I kind of miss with,  it’s usually just me I’m making lunch for, my babies are happy to graze after a large breakfast, I kind of always fail for myself.  I make fresh salads for Paul and Mabel, but I always forget myself… I’ve come up with a new plan, Salad lunch prep for the week, I will make enough basic salad for a week, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and scallions,  a tip I have just learnt is to line your containers with kitchen roll paper to absorb the moisture, then daily using leftovers from dinner change each salad up daily, today we will be having a lemon rosemary roasted chicken, I’m having shrimp, with a kale Cesar salad and tortilla wraps, so I’ll shred some chicken, or add shrimp and add it to the salad and bake a couple of wraps to crisp them up to add to the salad… I’m hoping this will keep me on track instead of snacking with my children.  

I have recently discovered I absolutely love chopped salad, we have had it before a few years ago, recipes from Jamie Oliver again, but I really hadn’t thought about chopping every salad we have until I visited a new salad place that has just opened in a local town, in Chopt you pick your salad then they ask if you want it chopped up, Kale Cesar salad with tofu totally chopped up and it was totally delicious.  I thought I’d try it out on my family… huge success, they prefer their salad ingredients chopped up, but as you can imagine chopping 8 salads is very time consuming, each person likes certain things in their salads, so I’ve been tossing salad ingredients into separate bowls then emptying the bowls onto a board and finely chopping them… until last night when I came up with the genius idea of the food processor, you can start with the harder veggies like carrot and broccoli, pulse them a couple of times then add the rest of the salad ingredients, it worked perfectly, and it was a lot quicker, you just have to clean up the food processor bowl and blade, but not too bad.  So my chopped salads have been a huge success, my family are enjoying them so much they are saying they do not need the carbs along with their protein just the salad it’s so filling… My only problem now is how much Salad veggies I am getting through, but at least everyone is eating their greens, well except for one extremely picky eater, who likes everything as plain as it can be.


I’ll leave you on a sweet note… I was visiting friends for lunch yesterday, I usually take desert with us, but I’ve been in search for healthier sweet treats, some I’ve made have been ok, but just not quite right, yesterday I came across this recipe for Lemon coconut muffins, they were healthier because the sugar was very low, and could easily be swapped out for honey, or some other healthy substitute, they contained coconut oil and yogurt, I think they would even be good with gluten free flour instead of all purpose flour… they were a huge success both at lunch and at home, but be warned if you try these at home, the batter is extremely thick, she does say that on the recipe, but I was surprised at just how thick it was, I added a little more coconut milk just to loosen it a little… but despite that they will definitely be something I will be making again and again.


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Baking…

I love to bake, I love making sweet treats for my family… but with a new oven to deal with it’s been difficult getting those cakes to rise and stay risen, so finally yesterday I googled the reason that cakes keep sinking in the middle, one of the causes could be the oven is too hot, the cake cooks from the outside in, so the cake is cooked and browned outside but the middle is not so it sinks… makes perfect sense, so I’m thinking a little experimentation is in order. 

With three Birthdays this month I needed to enlist my little bakers help, the first one was  this weekend, so we set about a nice easy Victoria Sponge recipe from Mary Berry, an easy mix all ingredients go in, mix together then divide equally into two 8 inch baking tins, bake at 350f for 25 minutes… both cakes looked good in the oven they rose nicely then just before they were due to come out they both sank in the middle… REALLY, I couldn’t believe it.  I sent Blu out for more eggs and started again.

I decided to switch recipes, this time a Victoria sandwich recipe from Jamie Oliver, his cake was a little more in ingredient weight and dial up the heat on the oven to 375f… this time the butter and sugar were beat together then the eggs added one by one, finally a gentle mixing in of the dry ingredients… once again both cakes looked good in the oven but just as the timer went off both cakes sunk in the middle… REALLY again!


Time to get GOOGLE working for me… ‘why are my cakes sinking in the middle?’


I had to use one set of cakes and after I added strawberry buttercream, fresh chopped strawberries and grated chocolate it really didn’t look so bad… my little helpers did a fantastic job of adding ingredients, counting the eggs, mixing, chopping strawberries, making chocolate drizzled strawberries and most importantly eating all the strawberries before they had a chance of going in the cake, that was the best part of all of this… for now I see a lot of experimentation of cake temperatures in my new oven… Happy Baking 🎂

Diet and nutrition

Change can be a good thing…

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I always find starting a new way of eating difficult, but this time I’m thinking slowly but surely wins the race! Both Paul and I need to lose some weight, my see chocolate and eat it post pregnancy diet, hasn’t helped me to off load the pounds, so it’s time to get to it!

Now I’m not saying I want to be totally Paleo, I was thinking I would just incorporate this way of eating into a healthy regime… It would be difficult for me to fully incorporate the cave man diet into my eating plan as I’m not a huge fan of meat, but I do love fish! I’m trying to plan recipes that can be adapted for everyone else in the house, so it’s no easy feat! 

The first thing I need to do is educate myself to reach for fruit instead of chocolate, and then Paul really needs some work, he will always reach for chips instead of anything, it really is baby steps for both of us!  

 

I like the idea of the Paleo diet, but I don’t want to be totally tied to it, it would be difficult to totally commit, so I’m using it as a guide line.  I suffer with IBS,  but I’ve been noticing a few things recently, like the fact that I can’t eat a lot of wheat based products, brown wheat bread gives me horrible cramps for hours, eating lighter healthier meals means I do not feel so bloated all the time… It’s all an experiment but my stomach has been feeling a lot better as I’m taking note of the things that hurt and the things that don’t! 

I’ve also reduced my main dairy intake too, the dairy aspect of my life has been replaced by coconut milk products, it’s been made a lot easier of course by Starbucks introducing coconut milk on to their menu… Phew, that was a close one, I almost had to give it up!

Paul also has some stomach issues, we are starting to help him by eliminating certain things from his diet, the first one is gluten, I’ve tried to research some of his problems and a lot looks like it could be linked to gluten, I’m no doctor but a diet change could help, I’m a great believer that diet is very important to almost all ailments , and the digestive system problems just scream change what you are eating!  For years now food companies have added all sorts of nasty things to our foods, we have been oblivious, these kinds of additives must have had some knock on effects to our bodies, it’s time to try and correct these bad things and replace them with good things! So far we are enjoying the gluten free bread, the grain free chocolate cookies tasted good but the  gluten free beer was not a success… Two out of three is not too bad a result!

  
Of course a little cheating here and there is a good thing… So here was ours on Sunday afternoon!